Chief Jasaad Rogers of Roxbury, like his brother before him, had lousy luck in the Boston public schools lottery. Not only was the 4-year-old shut out of the schools his parents wanted; he did not win a prekindergarten seat in any school at all. His parents, who both work full time, were left with few options besides paying for him to go somewhere else.
In West Roxbury, Debra Brendemuehl hit the jackpot, though she did not necessarily need full-day schooling for her 4-year-old, Brendan. (”They’re not kids forever,” she reasoned.)
She entered the lottery because she knew the only way to get him into the neighborhood’s highly sought-after schools was to apply when he was 4. The strategy worked: He won a spot at one of the city’s most competitive schools, the Lyndon in West Roxbury, which he can attend through eighth grade.
Two Boston children. Two drastically different outcomes. Chief was one of the 514 4-year-olds, about 23 percent of those who applied, who were denied entry to prekindergarten classes in the Boston public school system last month. Of the many complexities of the city’s school assignment system, it is this central inequity that can inflame the most passionate anger, that the city can pay for many but not all of its 4-year-olds to go to school.
Not only does it mean that some taxpayers receive a free education for their children a year earlier than others, but those who enroll at 4 claim many of the best kindergarten seats the next year, leaving lottery losers with little chance of getting into the city’s best schools. Like a bruising round of musical chairs, the system lets 4-year-olds who scrambled into the best seats crowd out the later arrivals.
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