Maybe the answer is to abolish zoning?

The Herald reports:

Auckland’s two most exclusive state schools have looming roll dilemmas due to a property boom predicted to surge student numbers.

More than 1800 apartments will be completed in the Auckland Grammar zone within three years, with 600 of those also falling in the Epsom Girls’ Grammar area. …

Auckland Grammar’s headmaster Tim O’Connor said it was actively working with the ministry, including talks about the development of new schools.

“We have 2500 on the roll, that’s at capacity. And we don’t want to be any bigger than we are,” Mr O’Connor said. “But there’s no silver bullet. We have to be aware of demand and everyone understands that.”

Act’s Epsom MP David Seymour said he was opposed to zone shifts – he headed a campaign when two nearby schools proposed overlapping their zones into the area last year – and to intensification.

One idea was to make a rule so that students in new houses would not be included in the zone, he said. There was a need to balance the needs of people who lived in Epsom with the “interests of developers who want to develop property and sell an education with that property”.

At present wealthy families buy an Auckland Grammar or EGGS education by paying several hundred thousand dollars more for a house in the zone. This effectively makes those schools more expensive than the most exclusive private schools. However the money doesn’t go to the schools, but to the previous land owners.

Here’s what I would do:

  1. Abolish all zones. Any prospective pupil can apply to any school, and if a school has more applications than capacity, they either decline some, or they grow and become bigger. Not much different from applying to universities and hostels.
  2. Set a maximum distance a student has to travel to school. This may differ in urban and rural areas. It might be say 10kms in a city and 50 kms in a rural area.
  3. If a student is unable to get an acceptance to a school within the maximum distance from their house, then the Ministry of Education has residual power to direct a school to take them. This might not be the very closest school to them, but one within an acceptable distance

This would get rid of the wealth barrier to schools like Grammar and EGGS.  Having rich parents who can afford a house in Epsom would no longer be the only way to attend schools like that.

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