School zoning perpetuates inequalities in society

By Infometrics 04/11/2013 1


So says David Grimmond in his discussion of school zoning! (Infometrics link here)

I am not a fan of school zoning.  Its main outcome is to reduce school choices for poorer families.  Although the intentions underpinning the policy are probably noble, it has unintended consequences which on the whole harm the prospects of children from poorer households.

Zoning adds another incentive to move into a community filled with people that are “like” you.  As we know from Schelling, a small incentive for such things can quickly lead to complete segregation.  Rather than enforcing greater equality in the school system, zoning is a feel good policy that ends up reinforcing broader inequalities!

If we honesty want to ensure education provides for everyone in society, David suggests:

It is too simplistic to presume that alternatives to the public system will be sufficient to generate education improvements.  Indeed, the US experience demonstrates that there is a mix of outcomes from charter schools.  But what the US experience with charter schools has provided is the opportunity to learn from their experimentation.  My reading of this evidence is that there are at least three areas that schools can focus on to improve education outcomes:

  • Ensuring that the school maintains standards about expected student behaviour
  • Openly assessing, reviewing, and improving teaching methods
  • Directing better teachers towards students who have the greatest need for improved education outcomes.


One Response to “School zoning perpetuates inequalities in society”

  • Agree. But at least, in NZ, the decile funding system attenuates the need to move to better school zones. Doesn’t eliminate it – there are cohort effects from getting your kids into better social networks and into groups with fewer pathologies. But attenuates.