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Monday, October 18, 2010

School Choice Program

By Guest Blogger, Jennifer Jacobs

When it came time to send me off to kindergarten, my parents did not have to think too hard about where I would go to school. In fact, they didn’t have to think at all. Everyone sent their children to the public schools in District 56. I was headed to Gurnee Grade School along with all my friends in the neighborhood. The exceptions were the kids who went to St. Patrick’s, the only parochial school in the area. And since my family was not Catholic, St. Patrick’s was not an option. Case closed.

Before I had kids, I did not give much thought to the school choice debate. I knew that my husband and I were not going to raise our kids in a big city, and I assumed that my kids would do as I had done: go to the local public school along with all the other kids in the neighborhood. It turns out that Dan and I settled in a town that is just big enough that school choice is in fact a complicated issue.

I have been thinking about school choice since we moved into our neighborhood four years ago and learned that the kids here attend at least half a dozen different schools. This especially caught Dan off guard. He had visions of our son and daughter tripping off down the road to the local school every day. Not that this could ever happen since getting to the public elementary school requires a ride in a bus or car, but you get the idea. (And another thing, why doesn’t anyone take the bus anymore?) Dan vehemently wants to send our kids to public school. I am not so vehement, but I am in agreement. But it’s not a good sign when the local public elementary school feels compelled to hold intimate coffees and open houses to educate and encourage local parents to send their children to school there. The administrators of Gurnee Grade School certainly never had to make such an effort.

What has changed? Is it because I am now living within a public school district that educates thousands of students versus little District 56 that educated hundreds of students? Is it because it is now thirty years from the time that I was a skipping kindergartener? Tomes could be and are written about the evolution, and perhaps deterioration of the American public school system over the past thirty years. All I know is that I have talked to a lot of other parents and none of us can believe how we are stewing over a question that once upon a time was elementary.

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