It often seems that Progressives and Conservatives are able to find little on which they agree. However, both presidential candidates in the 2012 elections do agree on one thing: parents should have more access to education options.
Barack Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, have promoted school choice over the past four years by pushing states to increase charter schools through the Race to the Top program.
Mitt Romney announced his education platform in late May. One piece of the plan that got considerable attention was his push for states to adopt an open enrollment system, allowing students to attend any school, regardless of where they live.
If Romney's plan were enacted, it would give all students access to high-quality schools whether or not their parents could afford the accompanying real estate prices.
Romney is not the first to suggest untying zip codes and schools. Some New York City districts have become "choice districts," meaning students can choose the middle school they attend, whether or not they are zoned for that school.
At a time when the nation and both political parties seem to be in agreement on increasing school choice, APS Superintendent, Erroll B. Davis, has announced plans to move in the opposite direction.
The AJC's Maureen Downey provided in April Mr. Davis's Final Redistricting and Closure Recommendations. The report says that APS will "decrease the extensive use of out-of-zone transfers."
Mr. Davis also opposed opening Drew Charter High School, an extension of the highly-successful East Lake charter school currently serving grades K-8.
The moves are motivated by real problems. APS faces budget cuts, overcrowding in north Atlanta schools, and underuse of south Atlanta schools. Mr. Davis has come up with a plan that addresses these problems, but it comes at the expense of school choice.
We've seen over the past 50 years that when a city's students are isolated in under-performing schools with little or no economic diversity, outcomes are not desirable. Therefore, I consider both policies steps in the wrong direction.
Without a doubt, there are real and difficult trade-offs here, but I would prefer to see the closure of more under-utilized facilities rather than limit student choice.