For example, does a school district offer too much sex education? Too little? The wrong kind of sex education? These and other questions are likely to arise as long as there is an expectation that everyone should be served by the same system. Indeed, the history of public schools is filled with controversy and even violence over disagreements on subjects ranging from textbooks to busing to how to teach math. In a recent analysis, for instance, the Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey documented over 150 instances of “political combat” in public schools during the 2005-06 school year.
The claim that community harmony requires having only one school district is mistaken for another reason: it neglects the other ways we build community and social harmony. Arts groups, business and professional organizations, churches, and social service organizations such as soup kitchens, not to mention chance encounters among citizens while walking the dog, all build a sense of place, belonging, and community.
In short, the belief in Bel Aire, and elsewhere, that the good life requires a single provider of education in a community is simply misplaced. Equating a single school district with a strong community and setting that option against educational choice presents a complicated matter in far too simple terms. Sacrificing greater choice for the sake of having a single football team to rally around is an unfortunate outcome for Kansas education. In a society that values choice and having options, we should place more, not less importance on having options in schooling.