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School choice is at the center of the Trump administration’s education efforts, but policies that increase choice will only work if those choices are accessible to families.
Transportation can pose a real barrier for students, particularly those in low-income families. A study of families in Washington, DC, which does not provide yellow bus transportation to most students, found that parents were willing to choose an elementary school with proficiency rates up to 11 percentage points lower if the school was one mile closer to them.
Our study shows that nearly all US families have at least one potential “choice” school nearby—a public school in their district or a neighboring district, a charter school, or a private school—but access varies by family income and family location.
These data show that a national school choice policy will affect populations and regions differently. The Trump administration may want to move away from implementing school choice on a national scale and focus on supporting current local efforts. The most appropriate role for the federal government in that equation may be to provide resources—through competitive grant programs or funding formulas—that allow states to design policies that fit their local context or that provide reliable transportation for families to send their students farther to schools of choice.