D.C. resident Elizabeth Walsh recently published a book on domestic violence. She doesn’t want to become one of those wealthy white families that abandon urban public schools when times get tough, as it’s been since the Coronavirus affected 50 million students earlier this year.
Despite this, she is hanging on by a thread as most students continue to learn virtually across the nation — and more than 90% in Washington, D.C.
In the majority-white neighborhood nestled in the northwestern part of the city, where median home prices often exceed $2 million, many people already have the mindset,
I’m just going to use the public school system until fifth or fourth grade and then apply my kid out anyway,’ Walsh says. Public education is something I strongly believe in. To me, a child should go to school until they are in the twelfth grade.
As for DCPS, she says, she believes the kids will have a better shot at getting into a good college than Sidwell Friends, referring to an upscale private school in her neighborhood where she estimates 50 percent of the families have already enrolled their children.
She tells me that although we have the money to go to private school, I won’t be changing direction unless the kids don’t go back to school in person this fall, she says.
Walsh is fighting to keep public school children in public schools; however, anecdotes suggest parents are driving them away from those schools. In some cities, enrollment in prekindergarten and early elementary school grades has declined by more than 30% in the last year – even though demographics are not reported.
While white parents prefer traditional in-person schooling, enrolling their children in private schools, or moving out of the city, it’s exacerbating inequities that already plague urban schools.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Public School chancellor Lewis Ferebee have promised that D.C. Public schools will be open five days a week in person for families who want it next fall, like many other mayors and school superintendents of big cities.
However, 93% of Washington eighth-grade students and 87% of fourth-grade students continue to study remotely as of March. Many parents who have already left the public school system are too far along to enroll their children in school this fall.
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