Snapshot: This case explores the dilemma many well-resourced parents face in choosing a school for their child. Should they opt for their local public school, investing their economic, cultural, and political capital into the public school system open to all students in their community? Or do they use their resources to send their child to whatever school they think will benefit them the most?
Case Description: Long-time teacher and school administrator Karla Browne has always been an advocate for public education. So when charter schools begin to pop up across her district—pulling students and resources from neighborhood schools!—Karla sees a serious threat to the kind of high-quality, community-centered public education she had championed for so long. Unsurprisingly, when a new charter sought approval to open in her neighborhood, Karla was one of its biggest opponents. After her daughter is placed in one of the district’s lowest performing elementary schools, however, Karla must grapple with the possibility that opting for that new charter school may offer her daughter a better education.
This case explores the dilemma middle-class families face when choosing a school for their child. Do they embrace the public school system and use their resources to make their local schools better for all children in their district? Or do they look for whatever school they believe will be best for their child, whether that means seeking out independent, parochial, or charter options? Might they end up the only family who could have chosen otherwise to stick with their neighborhood school? Importantly, this case also requires readers to grapple with the relationship between charter schools and traditional public schools.
Although focused on the specific choice Karla Browne must make for her daughter, “School Choice” ultimately raises difficult normative questions both about the school choice movement in the US and about the individual school choices families must make each fall.
- For a powerful, real-life discussion of this dilemma from the point of view of a parent, read Nikole Hannah-Jones’s New York Times story, “Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City.”