Editorial: School, and mayoral, choices

The new school choice proposals for Boston Public Schools have become a battleground of mayoral ambitions. That’s not just good theater. It’s a good thing for the city and its students.

Mayor Thomas Menino may yet run for re-election to a sixth term, but he is clearly working on the schools as part of his legacy. Under most of his administration (not to mention prior ones), the school system has stagnated and fallen behind, out-competed by private schools and public charters. But in recent years, he and his latest BPS superintendent, Carol Johnson, have attacked the problems with new vigor and new ideas.

Meanwhile, City Councilor John Connolly, a former teacher, is making the schools the foundation for a likely mayoral bid. A longtime BPS gadfly, he got top billing on an alternative school choice plan.

This political competition means that, one way or another, the school choice system is likely to get the radical change it desperately needs.

Both proposals make some dubious assumptions about more money or more neighborhood-centered schools automatically improving school quality. And both will face resistance from parents who want schools to be good for all kids—but one school to be even better for their own kids.

But they are great starting points for reform, for an overdue discussion on Boston’s broader inequalities, and yes, for the 2013 mayoral race.

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