NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Few Children Transfer Out of Failing Schools

August 28, 2002

Under a revised law, the 3.5 million children enrolled in failing public schools have the right to transfer to better schools this fall. But few are doing so, due to lack of space and parents' preference for schools close to home.

  • In Baltimore, only 347 children out of 30,000 eligible have applied for transfers -- and that's with only 194 slots available.
  • In Chicago, 145,000 children can theoretically leave below par schools, but only 2,425 have applied for the 1,170 open slots.
  • In Los Angeles, an overcrowded system with 223,000 children in 120 failing schools, officials say there is no room in better schools for children to transfer to.

The "No Child Left Behind" law demands that authorities find slots in better schools, but gives them no means to create them. Moreover, superintendents are supposed to arrange transportation for students to new schools, hire extra teachers and buy supplies on short notice.

In many Southern states, administrators are struggling to comply with the new law without violating desegregation court orders.

While the law does not spell out penalties, states could conceivably lose their share of the federal $10.4 billion Title I allotments if they do not comply.

Some observers contend the fault lies not with the law, but with school administrators who have been dragging their feet. Critics say administrators have known the shift was coming since the law was signed in January, but they did little or nothing to prepare for it.

Source: Diana Jean Schemo, "Few Exercise Right to Leave Failing Schools," New York Times, August 28, 2002.


Browse more articles on Education Issues