“School choice destroys neighborhoods,” was a recent argument heard from an extremely well educated, mature, executive level professional and self professed conservative.  He stated he would never support school choice programs because if all the parents were taking their children out of the neighborhood to be educated, the children would have no local friends to play with; the days of kids running around the neighborhood playing (especially in the summers) would end and as a result communities would lose their close-knit nature.

With respect, this is at best a naive and outdated view of the world and at worst dangerous when it traps children in failing or dangerous schools.

First, while there are surely still some neighborhoods where children are safe and play all summer unsupervised and without fear, for many the idea of their children running around the neighborhood is a reckless and dangerous idea and not only is their neighborhood dangerous, but many parents find themselves sighing in relief daily when their children make it home safe from a dangerous school.

Second, with a more transient work force and for other various reasons there is a good chance many (dare I say most) don’t even know the names of their neighbors or have time and energy to learn.  Living in a “close-knit” community is a quaint idea of an era past or of the privileged.

Third, even if/when we were to completely open up education to free choice, many parents (possibly the majority) will be unwilling to make arrangements and sacrifices necessary to get their child to a school outside the neighborhood.  For this simple reason, there will always be a “neighborhood” school choice.

Fourth, the school choice movement is all about choice – parents having the freedom and being given the means to choose the school that best meets their child’s needs and the priorities of that family.

For this gentleman having his child attend a local school and having local friends is his priority and that choice should (and will always) be available to him, but what about the priorities of the rest of the families in Tennessee?  In his stand against choice, he is denying others to have their educational priorities met.

What of the parent of living in the inner city where gangs, violence, and drugs rule the day; where only 40% graduate; where a learning environment just doesn’t exist?  Their priority isn’t having their child attend a “local” school; it is to have their child attend a safe school where they can get an education and graduate.

In his stand against choice, he is denying those parents to have their educational priorities met.

What of the parent of a child with a disability who wants their child to attend a school with specially trained teachers that specialize in educating children like theirs?

In his stand against choice, he is denying those parents to have their educational priorities met.

What of the parent of a child that has behavioral issues/is at risk of dropping out/is gifted in music/dreams of being an astronaut/becoming a nurse/doctor/teacher and their school of choice has specially trained teachers to meet the priorities of these families?

By demanding his priority of neighborhood schools be imposed on all he is, by default, denying the other families of having their priorities met.

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