In School Reform News’ latest podcast, Dr. Lewis Andrews and I discuss why suburban parents pose an obstacle to school reform. An article in the New York Times discusses this very thing, as charter schools ease into suburbs for parents wanting more education options in return for their substantial property taxes.
Charter schools, like most school choice options, were introduced and promoted as a way for poor children to escape from terrible urban schools. Now, as Americans grow more comfortable with charters, wealthy and middle-class parents are starting to consider the opportunities they present for customizing education. Currently, only 1 in 5 charters reside in the suburbs.
Not all suburban parents appreciate the incursion.
But to Mr. Stewart, a leader in a growing opposition that includes Livingston mothers who have helped collect more than 800 petition signatures, this sounds “selfish.”
“Public education is basically a social contract — we all pool our money, so I don’t think I should be able to custom-design it to my needs,” he said, noting that he pays $15,000 a year in property taxes. “With these charter schools, people are trying to say, ‘I want a custom-tailored education for my children, and I want you, as my neighbor, to pay for it.’ ”
I’m afraid Mr. Livingston doesn’t realize that his education preferences place a similar noose around his neighbors: “I want a generic public school education for my children, and I want you, my neighbors, to help pay for it.” This is the nature of public schools. What he really wants is to impose his vision for public education on his neighbors, and objects to their changing preferences for better options.
Image by Chris Willis.