I happen to live on one of the best public school districts in the entire country. The Pittsford Central School district consistently produces kids with extremely high test scores, almost every kid ends up in a good college, etc. We also spend nearly $18,000 per student on our education in this district. The district is probably in the top 5 wealthiest communities in Western, NY and is an extremely desirable place for families to locate. My wife and I purchased a home in the district not because we like the public schools (we send our children to the local Catholic School) but rather because we know that other people like homes in this area, and after getting bitten by the housing bubble in Massachusetts were interested in purchasing a home that was extremely liquid.
You all know how public schools work in New York State. You must live in the district your child ends up attending. So, for example, I cannot buy a really cheap house in inner-city Rochester and then choose to send my kid to the nice Pittsford schools. Let’s not ask why we have that policy, I am sure it has nothing to do with keeping undesirables out of our lily-white neighborhood here in Pittsford. Instead, let us ask how the schools themselves are staffed.
My neighbor here in Pittsford teaches in the Rush-Henrietta school district. That district is considerably weaker/inferior than the Pittsford schools. And these are schools that no one who lives in Pittsford wishes to send their children to. Studies of public school teachers in the past have shown a remarkable tendency for public school teachers in inner cities to send their kids to non-public schools, but I would like to see data on what share of public school teachers with children choose to send their kids to other public schools? By choose I simply mean, “live in another school district.”
Let me ask, on what moral, intellectual, economic or other grounds can someone make the case the employees of the public school system have the right to choose where they would like to employ their talents but that families should not have the same rights as to where their kids attend? Why should my neighbor be permitted to teach in the Rush-Henrietta schools if she does not choose to live in that district? Is it because freedom of choice is valuable and ought to be preserved at all costs? Is it because it would be unfair for her to have to work only in the place where she chooses to live? Is it because there are not enough good teachers in the bad school district for it to be staffed by only local teachers? What gives?
Now of course I support freedom of association in the grandest fashion. But someone please tell me why teachers and administrators in the public schools get to enjoy these rights but not the parents of the children who clearly have so much more at stake than any of the employees in these areas? Here is another question, if someone wishes to respond to my query with, “well, there simply are not enough jobs in the good school districts,” then what does this say about the level of pay, benefits and job security in these school districts? What of the pay and working conditions in the poorer districts? Note that I am not an advocate of lowering teacher pay by legislative decree, teacher pay, like that of any profession, ought to be determined by market forces. But that is a question for another day.