Universal enrollment is the notion that a common application would match each Philadelphia student to a single school based on a set of criteria. Students would then be assigned to a District, charter, or parochial school. This opens the door for myriad problems, and, most significantly, is another misguided distraction that detracts from the real issues plaguing our schools. As the District prepares to look at the pros and cons of this concept, I am concerned that the real issues at hand will get lost in logistical details of the process, which would take away from the broader discussion that must be had.
At the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, we are about educating all students. Our neighborhood schools should be thriving, exciting, innovative places where a student can enter the building and know that he or she will get a high-quality education. The right to a free and appropriate public education is a cornerstone of our democracy. And it should not require a parent to jump through hoops to ensure that their child is able to enroll in a “good” school. We respect parents and the decisions they make in educating their children.
However, we fear that the District, and Philadelphia community members, are tacitly accepting the fact that removing children from the neighborhood school is the only means of educating students “with potential.” Universal enrollment will encourage families to leave their neighborhood schools, based often on a set of misunderstood and improperly utilized statistics rather than a comprehensive examination of that school.