School choice is a system that allows public education funds to be used at institutions outside of traditional public schools like charter and private schools. School choice is the bane of school districts because it forces them to compete for students, they previously had a monopoly over which means less money.
This, of course, has prompted arguments and debates where all kinds of silly things are said. One of the more asinine ideas to come out of the anti-school choice movement is that school choice already existed… in the form of moving to a different school district.
This sentiment is wrong on several levels.
First, most people can’t just pack up move wherever they want. Students are often bound to an area by money, jobs, or family. As if willy-nilly deciding to buy a house in a desirable school district is something anyone can do. People who attend underfunded schools on the south side of Chicago don’t stay there simply because they never thought about moving to Naperville. In most cases that’s not an option.
Second, switching to a different school district would still offer a traditional public school. Moving to a different school district under a traditional model still limits you to attending a state-run school. You are trading one or two state-run options in place X for one or two state-run options in place Y. If you move to a new district the local school might be better, but if it isn’t you still have the same problem you had before because the system and the paradigm are the same.
Finally, this idea is not at all what school choice really is. School choice is meant to provide options other than traditional public schools. Whether you are in a poor inner-city district or a wealthy suburban district is irrelevant. The point is to expose the government-run schools to competition, using public dollars. Even if you were able to go to any school district you wanted without moving because the state provided transportation, that still wouldn’t be what was intended or meant by school choice.
Having the ability to move to a different school district is nice and in some ways probably does put pressure on school districts to do better. But, this is only a true choice for people with money and a system that only offers options to the affluent can not truly be called a system of choice.