Intended consequences of school choice

Over the past several years, Columbus Public Schools have lost 7,000 students to charter schools. More students are expected to leave this fall with the implemenation of school vouchers. This may prove to be a serious issue for Columbus Public Schools. According to a survey by KidsOhio, (PDF) only 49% of CPS parents with preschool-aged children plan on sending their children to CPS when they reach school age.

Those opposed to school choice have a wide range of reasons against it, centering largely on the notion (PDF) that “it will undermine neighborhood public schools and lead to inequities in education and student recruiting, as well as generating increased transportation costs.” Is this mass exodus from the school system in Columbus resulting in a decline in quality in the district?

Saying it’s time to take a direct role in addressing parents’ concerns about district schools, the Columbus Public Schools Board of Education pledged to create a vision statement to guide policies that will strengthen the city schools and keep students from leaving.

At the same time, administrators and staff members promised to work together on ways to make the the district better. . . .

For the school board, she said, the next step will be creation of “a real vision for what we want this school district to be.” The board will meet next month to write that vision, and work on policies to back it up.

[Superintendent Gene] Harris emphasized that the focus has to be on real solutions, not just talk.

“Or we’ll be back here next year — talking about the same poll,” she said. — This Week News

Certainly it would have been possible for the Columbus Board of Education to have begun these conversations years ago, before the implementation of charter schools and the creation of voucher programs. But there was no real need to. The students in the district weren’t going anywhere. Because this is no longer the case, district officials are finally recognizing the need to address parents’ concerns.

A vision statement alone will not do much to improve education, however. But it is a good starting place.