Aug 212012

With the school year quickly approaching, we are witnessing the social behavior of the human species I have termed the, “Illegal School Migration…or ISM.” ISM generally occurs in mid to late June of each year and continues until mid to late August. It’s the mad scramble of mostly law abiding citizens to find a way to get their children into the most desirable government schools. (I use the term government schools for what most, incorrectly, call public schools. There is nothing “public” about them. They exclude the public; even excluding those school aged children they pretend to be helping. Don’t believe me, go to a government school, open the door and go in to use the restroom…see what happens…you’ll be in that other public institution knows as the, “county jail”).

Almost everybody knows that government schools are a type of local monopoly (or fiefdom based on the number and power of the administration) that rejects those who live outside of some boundary line drawn up by the administrators. Almost all parents know which districts have the “good” schools and which districts have the “bad” schools. The battle is when a parent wants their child to go to the “good” school, but the child lives in a “bad” school district. As a side note, the “good” schools, not surprisingly, are generally in the wealthier neighborhoods. This situation is what creates the ISM each Summer. It’s modern segregation based on the economic status of the zip code. Let’s take a look at what some parents have to do to get into the government school they choose, but are prohibited from attending due to their geographic location.

1. Set up “residence” in the government school district – This part of the migration generally involves an excluded parent trying to get either a water bill or electric bill in a home or apartment within the boundaries of the district. In order to attend the desirable school, proof of residence must be provided to the administration that the child resides within the district. This creates a situation where the migrators seek out ways to get that proof or residence. Some migrators actually offer upwards of $500 to change electric or water bills into their names.

2. Use a family member to qualify for “residence” – Some migrators may have a grandparent or a family member in the desirable district. The child is then “placed” with the family member as the child’s primary residence. This is the, “Little Billy lives with Aunt Lucy” method. Little Billy does not live with Aunt Lucy, but has to say he does to get into the desirable school. The migratory parents actually go as far as to teach their children to lie if asked where they live. The child is programmed to lie about living at Aunt Lucy’s to avoid missing the ISM.

3. Use connections in the administration – “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” ISM absolutely involves using any connection the parent may have in the school administration to either get that special school district or to find out how to get into that school district. It’s not uncommon for the ISM period to bring a phone call of, “Hey, aren’t you friends with Jim on the school board? Can you see how we can get Billy into that really good school, RichGuy Elementary?”

There are other ISM methods, but these are overwhelmingly the most popular. But, do you know what the least popular is? Well, it’s asking for permission. That’s right, requesting a, “special assignment” is the least popular method because it is seldom, if ever, granted. The “legal” way is the least favored last to be used, the “illegal” ways are favored because they generally result in success.

You may wonder why I call it the, “Illegal” School Migration. Ayn Rand, wrote in Atlas Shrugged: “The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them…you create a nation of lawbreakers. . .” That is actually what has happened here. We have created, even in our government school system, a group of criminals. You think it’s not criminal?; see a post from my previous blog (which I shut down) here, The government school system is set up to make people law breakers who are trying to get the best for their children. Until we bring some sense, and competition, to the government school system the annual ritual of the ISM will continue, as will the criminal activity it promotes.

  4 Responses to “The Government School Shuffle”

  1. So, what’s the answer? How do we fix it? Totally privatize education? My wife is a teacher and she is lucky enough to work in a “good” school BUT the GOVERNMENT mandated testing and the BS she is subjected to is just crazy.

    • School choice and school competition. Here is a basic outline: 1) Each school age student is allocated an amount of money, a voucher, which follows the student anywhere the student chooses to go; 2) The schools then compete to get the student…and thereby the voucher. More students competing to get into the school = more money for the school = more “profits” if you will. Teachers will compete to get into the “better” schools because they will be better able to pay their teachers.

      But, the vouchers will favor the rich, you say. Like every government program which deals in, “benefits.” The vouchers will be means tested. So a family of 4 with an income of $30,000 / yr might get a $7,000.00 voucher for each student. While a family with one child and a $150,000 / yr income might get a $1,000.00 voucher. If the, “wealthy” family wanted to send their child to a certain school, the remaining tuition would come out of their pocket. The voucher is only good for the school and cannot be, “cashed in.” It’s all or nothing.

      I have heard your wife’s story many times, but from teachers from the, “bad” schools. They WANT to do their job, but are handcuffed by a bureaucracy that does not allow them to succeed…or fail. No matter what they do, it’s the same. That bad teacher is treated just like the good teacher. The other common thread is the FCAT. It seems that every teacher is completely frustrated because all the administration wants is to teach to the FCAT. All that matters is the FCAT. The FCAT this, and the FCAT that. It’s frustrating, and they eventually give up and become part of the system that William Bennett called, “the Blob.”

      This is a somewhat simple explanation, but it introduces the idea of market forces into education. Success and/or failure can be easily gauged by standardized tests (NOT THE FCAT!!!) like ERB’s. If you want to see what these types of changes can make take a look at Indian Public Charter Schools in Oakland, CA, and the Harlem Charter Schools. Oh yeah, one thing those types of schools can do that the others can’t, is fire teachers.

  2. I’m not a parent, so I don’t really know of this first hand, but here’s what I’ve seen in my area…

    I live in a county that’s “free choice.” While preference is supposed to be given to students who live within 3 miles of a school, this isn’t always followed. Any student can go to any government school in the county. This sounds like it might ok, but it’s really not that good. What happens is instead of having 2 or 3 bus stops in an area, you have more like 10. I see buses that literally pick up one student, go half a mile down the road and pick up a few more. I have seen 5 buses all pickup/drop off in the exact same place. There have been newspaper articles talking about the 2 hour trips that some students take to and from school each day.

    While school choice might seem like it would help this broken government school system, it really only raises cost and creates more problems than it solves. It’s bad enough that so much money is spent to transport students to government mandated education, but free choice means more buses, more bus stops, longer travel times, and more opportunities for problems. What happens when your child accidentally gets on the wrong bus? Depending on the driver, the area, etc, your child might get dropped off 20 miles from home on the “last” stop, or taken back to school, or taken to the bus depot; none of these get your child home.

    School choice is only good when parents can actually take their kids to school themselves. A better solution is to stop trying to regulate and control the teachers and schools so much so that teachers can teach the way they want, and at a pace that works with their students.

    • Vicki,

      Assume for a moment one thing; the free market hates a void. There is no school district where the money follows the child to the best of our knowledge. So, when you state, “any student can go to any government school in the county” does that mean that the funding follows the students as well? We doubt it. Therefore, there is no market incentive, at all, to get the child from home to school. If the school has the same amount of money anyway, then why go the extra length. Now, add a small incentive to the equation that the school gets additional money if the student attends. Then, you will see market forces at work increasing the quality of the product and service provided. If, however, your government schools do send money with the student, then please let us know so we can investigate.

      It also seems that your main issues are with transportation. Would you consider trading a longer bus ride for a quality education for your children? Maybe, maybe not. But that is the beauty of the free market. When all the schools are competing for students, and the money that accompanies them, every school will improve. Even those across the street.

      If your only issue with school choice is transportation, it’s very, VERY, easy for you embrace government school choice. It’s the least of the issue.

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