About 17 years ago, as an elected member of the School Advisory Council (SAC) for Sandpiper Shores Elementary in Boca Raton, Florida, I committed a huge social faux pas. Being only a year into parenting a public school child, I had no idea the political implications surrounding school choice. All I cared about was educating my kids with common sense. Silly me.
At one of our council/faculty meetings, the teachers were bemoaning the “lack of funding” and “overcrowding.” If memory serves, the school was over 200% capacity. There were portable classrooms amassing in the schoolyard. Lunch started at some unseemly hour shortly after breakfast and ended just before school did.
While the situation was dire, the school district wasn’t about to help. Apparently there had been a ruling by some government regulatory body (OOEO?) that prevented the building of any more schools until the area was deemed “racially integrated.” And by “racially integrated” they, apparently, only meant one thing: we needed a specific quota of black students before the building moratorium was lifted.
The problem? To the best of my knowledge (and that of every single person I spoke to), there was no evidence and no accusation that black folks (or anyone of any racial identification) were being prohibited or discouraged from moving to the area. They had simply chosen not to. And that just wasn’t acceptable to the school board. We simply had to recruit (I suppose?) more black families to the area if we wanted to reduce the overcrowding. (Racist? Yes!)
As the discussion raged on, about how to address the bulging facilities without being able to bus half the kids to a needed (but nonexistent) new school, I piped up with the brilliant idea of bussing them to a needed new school.
“If we could allow vouchers, then some kids would choose to go to other schools and we’d reduce the enrollment and overcrowding!”
Bad move. You’d have thought I suggested that having some kids go to a different school would reduce the enrollment and overcrowding — which is pretty much the same thing that would happen if the district built another school, and some kids went to a different school.
A teacher at my table looked at me like I was a loon and said, “But then we’d lose the funding!”
“Won’t you lose the funding if the district builds a new school and the kids go there?”
“No! Well, we’d lose the funding but the other school will get the funding.”
“Isn’t that the same thing that would happen if we used vouchers?”
“No! Because we’d lose it to the other school.”
This is the genius of teachers’ union. Again the teachers’ union position is worthy of a laugh. If only our kids weren’t the butt of the joke.