Bay Area School Choice Program Is Mostly For District Employees

I waited a week to see how much commentary would arise from this story by KQED’s Devin Katayama headlined “Why Oakland Students Leave for Public Schools in Other Cities.”

I can’t find any.

Katayama examined the practice of inter-district transfers in the Bay Area. Parents can apply to send their kids to schools in other districts if they qualify. “Legitimate reasons include: the student’s parent works in another district, the student has special health or safety concerns, a sibling attends another district, or a special program exists in another district,” he reported. You can’t just want to put your child in a better school.

Your assigned district must approve the transfer, but so does the accepting district, and that’s where you run into some interesting facts and attitudes.

Over the last two years, the Berkeley Unified School District has accepted about 75 percent of all requests, said admissions manager Francisco Martinez. Most of those are for families who work for Berkeley Unified, he said. Last year, Berkeley had more than 700 inter-district transfer students. Of those, about 40 percent were from Oakland.

School districts have some level of discretion for which students they accept. School boards in each district set those policies, and if interdistrict transfer students don’t maintain adequate eligibility, the district can send them back to the home district.

“If they are accepted, they have to have satisfactory grades, attendance and behavior,” Martinez said.

How nice that Berkeley Unified, which has a residency enforcement investigator, also runs a school choice program that mostly benefits the children of its own employees who live outside of the district’s borders. And if transfer students don’t keep up their grades, or behave, they can get booted out.

No accusations of cherry-picking. No allegations of trying to pad test scores. No claims of renewed segregation. No cries of lost funding because students leave. Traditional public schools are apparently immune to those criticisms.