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When It Comes to School Choices, It's a Privilege to Have Fewer

While a range of options might seem like a plus, there are costs.
Students board a bus at Lafayette Elementary School in Chicago.
Students board a bus at Lafayette Elementary School in Chicago.AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

It’s no secret that public school funding comes largely from local property taxes —a model that has produced, in the words of the social-justice writer Jonathan Kozol, savage inequalities. Schools in lower-income neighborhoods often wind up with fewer dollars per student than those in wealthier areas, even though students from low-income families are often the ones most in need of extra support.

But are kids who live in poor areas confined to local schools? New research suggests that at least in Chicago, which contains the nation’s fourth largest school district, they’re not. Policies that decouple where kids live from where they must attend school—crafted with the best of intentions—have given poor students lots of “choices” when it comes to where they learn. But that’s not necessarily a good thing.