One thing you hear often in education is that your ZIP code shouldn’t determine your educational destiny. This is something even folks who say they oppose “education reform” ostensibly believe.

So if that’s true, why is your house the overwhelming predictor of the sort of education you will receive?

I am willing to concede that during the early days of public education — open to all, paid for by taxpayers, and free at the point of delivery, as Sir Ken Robinson describes it — it might have made sense to organize compulsory schooling for children around small localities, principally because, in the absence of state and federal revenue streams or even state mandates and responsibility for education, taxing a community via its wealth in property probably made sense.

And education, which ostensibly was not meant to be a market, has turned into one. More pointedly, it’s turned into two:

  • The first one is the housing market, which is now in every way the proxy for the buying and selling of school that is supposed to be free but which is really priced into your mortgage. And if markets can be unfair to people, there are some people they are more unfair to than others: young families who have to buy into overheated housing markets, and those who still suffer the long-term effects of redlining, chief among them.
  • The other is the black market that arises when people lie about their addresses to gain entrance into better-performing schools in towns where they may not live.

Is the maintenance of a segregated system that prioritizes the interests of those who can cluster in the wealthiest areas more important to you than whether a young child of color has the early reading intervention necessary to unlock a future of possibility?

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