Earlier this week I posted something on Facebook regarding the start of school which prompted a conservative friend to comment on the benefits of “neighborhood schools,” a term I haven’t heard in a few years. It might surprise readers to learn that I am a proponent of neighborhood schools only my idea of a neighborhood school differs greatly from that of most who use the term.
Transporting kids to schools outside their neighborhoods was first used as a tool to integrate schools. Overwhelming evidence that wealthier neighborhoods had wealthier schools while poorer neighborhoods had poorer schools exposed the lie of “separate but equal” and prompted courts to take action where local officials would not. In addition to the equities involved, all students who attend diverse schools derive great benefits from that experience. For that reason alone I would support making integration a bigger factor in school assignment than place of residence if everything else was equal.
But all things aren’t equal. Any child who arrives in a classroom in a Lowell public school who is well fed, well rested, well clothed, well cared for and comes from a safe and supportive home – regardless of how traditional or non-traditional the occupants of that home may be – will receive an excellent education. For too many kids, some or all of those prerequisites of learning are simply not available. If you’re now tempted to say “It’s the parents’ responsibility”, please don’t, because that would just show that you’re unwilling to have a serious discussion on this topic. Of course it’s the parents’ responsibility but a depressingly large number of parents are either unable or unwilling to provide those prerequisites to learning.
The only way to break out of this pattern is for society to provide these things to the kids who need them. We’ve been trying to do that for nearly a half century. There have been some successes but not enough to keep pace with the scale of the needs. While more money would certainly help, it’s not an option and, more importantly, I’m not sure that it’s necessary. What is necessary is a more efficient way of delivering existing resources and services to those who need them. And that’s where the neighborhood school comes in. read more »