It’s hard to find agreement on many big issues in education. But one position that’s pretty popular—shared by people as different as Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos—is the belief that children’s education and opportunities shouldn’t be determined by their ZIP code. So what’s the best way of loosening, or breaking, geography’s impact on K-12?
In a new story for the Quality Counts report from Education Week, I examine the extent to which children’s hometown, and family background, determines the quality of their schools and their postsecondary opportunities.
A big part of the issue is how schools are funded. With a significant portion of K-12 aid coming from local taxation, in many cases it is difficult to make school spending more equitable to meet the needs of children from low-income households, English-language learners, and others. That puts a bigger burden on state funding systems to do the work, and steering those systems in new directions is complicated and can take a long time.
So is choice an important way to break ZIP codes’ stranglehold on education? Tori Bell, of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, told me yes, that a big menu of options helps students and parents make smart decisions. But Linda Darling-Hammond, of the Learning Policy Institute, believes otherwise—the real key, she told me, is directing significant resources to schools in smart ways that focus on highly-trained teachers and classroom instruction.
Image: State grades on the 2019 Quality Counts Chance-for-Success Index, via the Education Week Research Center
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