Writing in the Sunday Wichita Eagle, USD 259 (Wichita public school district) superintendent John Allison told Wichitans something they probably didn’t know: Parents of Wichita schoolchildren benefit from the district’s school choice program:
First, investment in the Wichita public schools allows for remarkable parental choice. Much has been discussed recently about the choice we must give families in order to meet the needs of their children. In Wichita, we are proud that for more than 20 years, families have been offered choice through our district’s magnet school program.
Nearly 30 percent of our schools have a unique magnet focus, enabling students from across our community to consider robust options ranging from science to art, public service to environmental stewardship. Thousands of parents make the decision every year to become part of this rich magnet school tradition, which has helped the Wichita public schools remain a vibrant and diverse school district that has grown by more than 1,500 students in the last 10 years.
I don’t see how Allison believes that magnet schools are equivalent to “remarkable parental choice.” Generally, school choice refers to actual choice programs where parents might choose the regular public school, or perhaps a charter school, or perhaps a private school with its cost paid fully or partially through vouchers or tax credit scholarships. Sometimes school choice programs allow students to enroll in public schools in neighboring school districts.
Wichita and Kansas have none of these programs. (Actually, Kansas does have charter schools, but the law is so weak that there are very few of these schools.) Wichita’s magnet schools are part of the government school system. This means they benefit from taxpayer funding, which is over $12,500 per student per year.
But it also means that these schools suffer all the pathologies that afflict the public school system. That’s not much of a choice.