Metro Freedom of Public School Choice
One of the elements of metro life that creates the most dislocation is the issue of public school districts. Family formation is quite common in urban areas. But, as the children attain school age a great divide occurs. Families that can afford to move to better school districts do move, leaving behind those who cannot. Even if one or both of the urban parents attains employment in the suburbs, the child is 'trapped' in the urban school district.
The education of these children and the health of American metropolitan areas depends upon blurring these these district boundaries and empowering these parents. This program would replace all equal opportunity programs because it is completely non-discriminatory.
This program would eliminate over-crowded schools and encourage school districts to compete for students. It would also generate more parental involvement because the choice process would empower parents and reduce or eliminate feelings of entrapment or 'Whats the use?"
This proposal is completely separate from school voucher debates because it does include any private schools. Further, it is unlikely that any private schools would be interested in this program because it eliminates any admissions selectivity.
Under this program, parents could choose their child's school, subject only to capacity constraints, based on whatever criteria they considered important: school quality or special programs: parents' residence or employment location; or other criteria.
The foundation for this program would be a birthday lottery which would be held prior to each choice period. The lottery would establish the order for selection. Each birthday would be allocated to a given half-hour period over a four-week span. Enrollment would be by phone, internet or in person, subject to birth certificate verification.
Immediately after each initial choice period, a new 'second chance' lottery would be drawn to be used to fill any vacancies. Each school would keep a waiting list ordered by the then current birthday lottery, accepting new students as positions became available.
Once registered in a school, a student could stay in that school until completion.
In as much as most current students would stay in their existing schools, this program would be phased in as each school (elementary, middle, high) formed its entering grade, except that all attrition would be filled by the birthday lottery method.
All of this moving around will probably mean that some districts would 'export' students and some would 'import' students, but not in the way one might expect. It is likely that over-crowded suburban districts will be the 'exporters' and that low-enrollment schools in employment districts will be the 'importers' as parents choose to keep their children near to their work locations. This will mean that net differences in inter-district transfers will need to be settled by payments from the exporters to the importers. Inter-district imbalances in enrollment would generate corresponding inter-district cash transfers.