The Brookings Institution, one of the oldest public policy think tanks in Washington DC, released its Education Choice and Competition Index today. According to the index, Washington DC ranks third out of 107 cities and suburban areas for school choice based on the policies governing choice and availability of education options.
While the District’s mix of public, public charter, and private schools does offer parents a wide variety of educational choice, it does not mean that all of those choices are available to all parents. For the most part, private school options are only available to upper income families. In 2009, Barack Obama ended the voucher program that gave more than 2000 children from low income families the opportunity to attend private schools instead of failing public schools.
Furthermore, the index did not take into account the fact that DC Public Schools announced in August that, thanks to a waiver from the Department of Education, it would be ending its Title I School Choice Programs. That program allowed students assigned to schools designated as a Title I school in need of improvement the option to enroll in an alternative public school or public charter school. According to a letter from Chancellor Kaya Hederson, this move allows the district greater flexibility in spending federal funds. What it in fact does is take away what little control parents had over the education of their children.
In place of the school choice program, the District will provide grants to “allow individual schools to offer intensive extended day programs, technology-based instruction, and support for struggling learners during the regular school day.” In other words: instead of having the option of getting your child out of a failing school and into a good one, more money will be spent to allow those failing schools to continue to teach your child using new, broadly defined and unproven methods that are marketed as some sort of improvement to giving parents a choice.