Profiles in Choice: Volume 2
School choice is an illusion. It is not a universal possibility. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to take into account far more variables than they are currently considering.
You know what makes it possible for some students to choose schools outside of their immediate districted area and makes it impossible for others? Transportation.
Some students have cars.
Some students have parents who can drop them off and pick them up.
Some students can afford to Uber or Lyft to and from school every day.
And some students do not have money for the bus.
Do you see the difference?
Some cities have free transportation to and from school for students. I salute the excellent people who worked so hard to make this a reality. But far too many still do not. So, students have to pay, walk, or be transported. Spoiler alert: this really limits their choices.
At my school there is a charming brother and sister pair who used to ride to school on matching bikes every day. But one day the brother messed up his tire en route. Without the money to fix the problem, he has had to stop riding for the past couple of months. Now they take turns on one skateboard and one bicycle. She is older, so sometimes he holds onto her shoulder and she pulls him. They are tardy with increased regularity. I called their mother, a caring, hard-working woman. You know what she told me? “Yeah, I worry a lot about them out on the roads, too.”
You know what she doesn’t have? Another choice. She can’t drive them; she has to work instead, in order to be able to continue to feed them. So this is how it is for now.
One girl in my speech class has a protective father. He does not like her getting home by herself after dark. So, this good man picks her up every day. When he gets out of work. Sometimes as late as 7 p.m. At least she can get her homework done.
“Ms. S, can you lend me a dollar for the bus?” is almost as common a question in my room as, “What are we doing today?” or, “What page are we on?”
Many of my students can’t afford even a reduced price bus pass. I imagine for Mrs. DeVos and her friends this doesn’t seem like such a common occurrence. To them it is probably unimaginable. But she probably never had to go without eating so that her children could eat either, as one of my student’s “Personal Hero Speech” revealed had been the case in her family.
Mrs. DeVos probably never had to spend a chunk of her minimum wage salary on splitting Ubers with her three friends just to get to school in the morning, or walk over a mile in the rain just to get back home. Mrs. DeVos probably does not understand that not everyone can just make a choice and a magic money fairy appears to make that choice a reality.
Ms. DeVos only knows that, “…public schools are not succeeding. In fact, let’s be clear, in many cases, they are failing.”
And she also knows she is just the right choice to ride in and change all that.