Since the advent of the school-choice movement, its most tenacious and effective blue-state opponents have been affluent suburban parents who have an interest in defending the exclusivity, perceived quality, and fiscal stability of their schools. That has meant ensuring that district borders are stringently enforced, local property-tax wealth flows into local district schools, and exits to nondistrict alternatives are kept to a minimum. School-choice policies threaten to undermine every one of these pillars: Interdistrict-choice programs would allow out-of-district students to enroll, thus undermining schools’ exclusivity and perceived quality, and they’d enable parents dissatisfied with district schools to find alternatives, diverting resources in the process.
Over time, however, suburban school districts have been growing less fortress-like. A number of states, including California and Texas, have made significant efforts to equalize school funding across districts, which have lowered the stakes of interdistrict choice. And with 14 percent of all public-school students now receiving special-education services of one kind or another, a growing number of suburban parents are embracing the idea that their children might benefit from specialized options beyond their local district schools.
Just as important, I suspect, the COVID-19 school closures have disrupted the community-specific social capital that has been so essential to the political strength of district education. They’ve led some families to relocate, and many more to consider doing so. If you believe that the rise of remote work is going to lead to a reordering of America’s economic and social geography, it follows that schooling patterns will change as well.