The School District Boundary Problem
Urban Lawyer, Vol. 42, No. 3, p. 495, Summer 2010
55 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2010
Many scholars identify local educational governance as a root cause of inequality of educational opportunity in America. Advocates of educational reforms as disparate as school choice and the regionalization of school districts seem to agree that because localities are overwhelmingly stratified by race and class, localism causes inequity.
This Article argues that, for reasons of both political economy and normative political theory, American education should embrace its tradition of localist governance. Local control remains the best hope for effective academic education and the only hope for effective democratic education.
Increasing equity in the distribution of educational opportunity therefore requires the reconstitution, not the abandonment, of the local educational polity. This Article proposes that to do so, school district boundary lines be subject to periodic redistricting, under procedures similar to those used for electoral districting. At the end of each period, boundaries would be redrawn to minimize interdistrict variance in wealth. Between redrawings, districts would remain autonomous.
This arrangement would strengthen voice and weaken exit, thus not only preserving but enhancing the robust localism that theorists of democracy and democratic education argue is crucial to educational governance. It would preserve allocative and productive efficiency. And, given institutional features of American state government, it would be judicially manageable, politically feasible, and bureaucratically implementable.
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