Eddie of Ed is Watching fame brings us news on school choice from Denver via The Denver Post. The Post is reporting that more than 1 of every 2 families in Denver Public Schools is opting out of their assigned schools and taking advantage of the district’s liberal open-enrollment policies or any of the other public options available to them. That means roughly 42,000 students are attending a traditional school outside their zone or any of Denver’s magnet programs or 30 charter schools. That’s up from a third of all Denver families just seven years ago.
To hear the district put it, as the Post reports, even more Denver families would exercise choice if they understood all their options. One parent, Armida Solis, explained her motivation accordingly: “What we look for is somewhere where I can trust leaving my kids all day and where I feel I can be a part of their education.”
Given that explanation, it’s disheartening to see recent news reports showing that districts in New York, Florida and Rhode Island are limiting or eliminating their open-enrollment policies to acheive greater cost savings. It’s a stark reminder that many districts once pursued choice plans within their boundaries primarily as a way to balance enrollment with efficiency. Now that they’ve gotten those efficiencies, and since their budgets are souring, they’re beginning to sound a little tone deaf to the needs and wishes of families, as evidenced by one Martin County, Fla., school board member: “Choice has served us well. It’s beginning to create some problems for us.”
First, the report was misleading, apparently. The 90 per reported was for Denver’s far northeast Denver schools. DPS turned all of these schools into choice schools to promote its charters, and to support its closure of the feeder pattern’s high school. Over all, about 12% of DPS’s kids attend charter schools.