How schools have changed

When a 10-year-old has to bike two miles to school, something isn’t right

The author is a retired business executive and a board member of a listed Chinese solar-energy company.

I moved here about a year ago, after 20 years in Asia, to raise my 10-year-old. The nearest school to where we live is Chico Country Day School, a charter school, but it is full and has a long wait list. So rather than attending a school a few blocks away, my daughter rides her bike about two miles to Chapman Elementary. (This is primarily due to the absurd cost and scheduling for school bus transportation combined with the elimination of the B-Line Route 6—not a big deal, really.)

It has been ages since I went to public school (I am nearly 60), and I did not realize how much things have changed in the past 20 years in terms of fundamental education.

Maybe this is simplistic, but the process of creating and “tending” charter schools has created significant economic segregation patterns in Chico—surprising for an outwardly progressive-seeming place. This form of segregation has been created through a combination of charter schools and “open enrollment”—in other words, if you don’t like a particular school, you can take your kid to a totally different school far away from where you live, provided you get there first.

In fact, the elementary school my daughter attends handed out letters saying “this school is bad, feel free to send your child elsewhere.” Is there really such a lack of resources and desire to make schools “equal” anymore?

For myself (and I bet others in less economically advantageous circumstances), I do not own or operate a car. The nearest school to where we live is full—“too bad,” said the local administrator. So the options are limited in a way that loses focus on what should be a school district’s primary purpose—providing education, particularly with elementary students, in places near to where they live rather than where a car can take them.

If one has the responsibility for “oversight,” one should do it with intelligence, caring, and a goal to promoting the overall policy of education for children. Apparently, no one thinks that is an appropriate task these days. While charter schools sound “cool,” those who are disadvantaged or even just moving into the area are, to say it politely, screwed.