October 24, 2007 3:11PM

Get Middle‐​Class Mediocrity for Record‐​High Prices!

Expensive homes mean an expensive, but not necessarily a good education.

The Wall Street Journal reports on a great new book from the Pacific Research Institute, Not as Good as You Think: Why the Middle‐​Class Needs School Choice. It’s packed with great statistics on under‐​performing, over‐​priced schools in some of the wealthiest California districts and case studies on fiscal mismanagement normally associated with big city schools. The findings are eye‐​opening, as the WSJ reports:

At Dos Pueblos High School in ritzy Santa Barbara, only 28% of high school juniors tested college‐​ready for English in 2006, slightly better than the 23% of students who did so at San Marin High School in Marin County, where the median home price recently hit $1 million.

That’s just a taste of the dirt they dug up with widely available information. And other state think‐​tanks can get a lot of mileage with the same model.

Kudos to PRI for advancing the argument for school choice with the middle class and up … that’s where the battle for educational freedom will be won or lost, and the school choice movement has largely failed to speak to middle‐​class concerns like the rising tide of mediocrity and skyrocketing property taxes that support over‐​funded and horribly inefficient and under‐​performing suburban school districts.

PRI’s not‐​much‐​bang‐​per‐​buck argument is particularly likely to resonate with the crucial two‐​thirds of the electorate that doesn’t have school‐​aged children but gets slammed in taxes for the schools. This constituency is typically left out of parent‐​centric arguments for school choice, but non‐​parents are the key to expanding school choice.