We can’t have a state where the ZIP code you’re born in dictates your future.
Margaret Spellings, News & Observer December 16, 2017
In her Saturday op-ed in The News & Observer UNC President Margaret Spellings pointed out something most of us all know to be true: where you live frequently dictates the type of future you have. Family breakdown, lack of economic opportunity, and failing schools have dimmed the futures of millions of North Carolinians. Spellings speaks of two North Carolina’s one where some cities are thriving and another where minorities, low income and many rural poor are left behind. Spellings says, “We can’t have two North Carolinas.”
We already have a state where a zip code determines your educational future. Since children are assigned to public schools based on where they live, students who live in areas with low performing or challenged schools do not have access to the same opportunities as students from better schools.
Policymakers recognized this truth years ago when they lifted the cap on charter schools and created the Opportunity Scholarship Program. These programs were designed to give students access to a better school and a better future. The tremendous growth and popularity associated with each of these programs attests to their success in meeting these goals.
Spellings is right, a zip code shouldn’t determine a child’s future. Efforts by UNC to enroll and graduate more students from low-income families and rural counties can be helpful in closing the gap between the haves and the have-notes. A more successful effort provides children access to quality educational opportunities throughout their K-12 years. Doing so would help to limit the achievement gap from ever developing and can better prepare students for college at UNC or elsewhere.
If we’re truly committed to one North Carolina, access to a quality education should start not in college, but in K-12.