New Policy: Open Districts Act

New York

Parks and libraries are public institutions that are open to people without regard to their address. School districts should be open to everyone too.

Opportunity

Even before this year, students and families deserved the flexibility to change directions—to make a change that could result in a better fit and a more promising educational opportunity.

The pandemic has highlighted huge differences between wealthy districts and poor districts. For example, a recent analysis from Georgetown University’s FutureEd found that students in wealthier districts are more likely to have access to the “safest in-person educational experiences.”

But these differences between wealthy school districts and poor school districts predate the pandemic. If you attended EdPalooza a couple of weeks ago, you may have seen Derrell Bradford interview Tim DeRoche, the author of A Fine Line: How most American kids are kept out the best public schools. Tim shared some history about school boundaries and how they divide neighbors, excluding many from equal opportunities. For example, he shared this graphic from Brooklyn.

Brooklyn is not alone. We see maps like this in Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas where school boundaries mirror the same redlined boundaries adopted by government agencies in the 1930s. For almost 100 years, they’ve separated communities who happen to live near each other. These attendance boundaries affected generation after generation of Americans.

Looking forward, we simply cannot afford exclusion and constraint. Birth rates continue to drop. By 2035, the number of middle-aged Americans are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. In 15 or 20 years, our nation will rely more heavily on today’s children more than maybe any generation before it.

That means we don’t have time for exclusivity. We don’t have time for withholding educational opportunity. That is why we at ExcelinEd are working on policies to increase the chances every student will have a chance to attain an excellent education.

We have drafted the Open Districts model policy as a step in the right direction. This act is an interdistrict policy and is one part of open enrollment policy that could make a difference. If adopted, it would allow any student in a state to attend any school district. While no resident of a district would be turned away, transfer students would be provided information and processes to make their admittance to their choice districts much more likely.

Parks and libraries are public institutions that are open to people without regard to their address. School districts should be open to everyone too.

Solution Areas:

Public Education Choice

About the Author

Sam Duell is the Policy Director for Charter Schools at ExcelinEd.

Solution Areas:

Private Education Choice, Public Education Choice