What began last January with Mayor Menino’s dramatic call for Boston students to be given seats in schools close to their homes, with meaningful alternatives for those in areas with underperforming schools, has morphed into something more like an effort to improve the current system of wide geographic zones, multiple choices, and luck of the draw. There’s nothing wrong with giving parents a little more control, and a slightly higher chance of having their son or daughter attend a school with better-than-average performance on statewide MCAS exams, as would all three of the proposals produced at the behest of the Mayors External Advisory Committee on School Choice. But none would transform the system. Menino should ask the committee to give him at least one bolder option.
All of the three proposals to come out of the advisory committee would be better than the current system, in which students from the same neighborhoods crisscross the city to widely differing places, based largely on the luck of the lottery. But each of the replacement proposals would still have the complicated lottery system and would only reduce the average distance students travel from 1.8 miles to about 1.1 miles. None would even offer much of a reduction of the system’s $80 million annual transportation bill.