NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Fleeing Bad Schools

March 1, 1996

Faced with the declining education provided by inner-city public schools, parents may move to another district or place their children in nonpublic schools. However, if they can't afford these options, parents may send their child to live with a relative so that they can attend a different school.

A study of Indianapolis public schools used court records to establish how widespread is the use of this third option. Court records were used because it is only when children run afoul of the law that an official determines where a child lives, with whom, whether there is a parent living at a different address and where the child attends school.

Enrollment in Indianapolis public schools has declined by more than 50 percent in the last 25 years to 46,000 in 1995. The suburban school districts in the same county have about 69,000 students.

Indiana does not have school choice, which would allow students to attend any public school, regardless of residency. It requires that children attend the school where their parents (or a custodial parent) lives.

  • From juvenile court records of students arrested for various crimes from January 1995 to June 1995, a researcher took a random sample of 471 students attending public schools in the county, but outside of Indianapolis.
  • Of this sample, 2.5 percent or 12 cases indicated a child was living with a close relative other than a parent, but had a parent or parents living at an address in the city, and there was no record that the parents were not the guardians.
  • If the same proportion of the general suburban student population should be attending city schools (2.5 percent), then about 4 percent (1,840) of Indianapolis students are enrolled in suburban schools.

Source: William Styring III, "Urban Government Schools Are Prisons for Poor Children," Indiana Policy Review, Winter 1995, Indiana Policy Review Foundation, 320 North Meridian Street, Suite 904, Indianapolis, IN 46204, (317) 236-7360.


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