The public school system has become a minefield that’s increasingly difficult for parents and students to navigate. So difficult, in fact, that New York parents are hiring consultants to tell them which neighborhoods are the best to live in, and which waiting lists they should join in order to get their child into a high-performing school.

As Alissa Quart reports in The Atlantic,

“That consultants for public schools exist at all is a testament to a bewildering system, increasingly divided by race and class, that can hold not just obvious inequalities, but hidden ones too. Kindergarten admissions in New York City are mostly decided by zoning, plus a combination of lottery and choice. But popular schools can be difficult to get into: Class sizes have gone up, and some schools have waiting lists. Gifted-and-talented and specialized programs, such as dual-language classes, admit a small number of applicants.”

While the presence of consultants does indeed indicate the presence of a “bewildering system,” it also indicates that there is a great parental concern and unrest over the state of America’s public schools. Parents want the best for their children, but are having little success at finding schools which give their children a thorough grounding in essential knowledge. As one parent asked,

“We are looking for premiere schools, but why isn’t every public school great or a top choice?” 

Good question.

The American Founders advocated for the establishment of public schools in order to train the next generation in “the usual branches of learning,” history, and virtue necessary for the government of the nation. According to Noah Webster, “Such a general system of education is neither impracticable nor difficult.”

Despite what the revered Webster says, the rise of school consultants demonstrates that we have somehow managed to make it decidedly difficult to get a solid education in the United States. The question becomes, how do we improve the system and ensure that all American schools can once again offer a well-rounded education to those who come through the doors?

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