Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
Public Boarding Schools: Extending Educational Opportunity to Disadvantaged Children
ExpressO (2012)
  • Bret Asbury
It is beyond question that American public education is in crisis, and nowhere is the inadequacy of our current system more striking than in high-poverty, urban schools populated by disadvantaged minority students. Despite decades of legal, policy, and scholarly efforts aimed at addressing the challenges facing these schools, the academic prospects of poor students are currently as grim as they have been in recent memory. Reformers seeking to address this problem have largely focused on either reducing discrepancies in public school funding or altering public education from within by improving and modernizing classroom conditions. Almost all of these efforts have failed to bring about real progress: more than half a century after Brown, our nation’s most disadvantaged children are still largely deprived of quality educational opportunity. This Article argues that prior education reform efforts have enjoyed little success because they have failed to address head-on what we believe is the predominant factor in perpetuating educational inequality: the numerous educational challenges disadvantaged students must overcome in their home and neighborhood environments. These well-documented challenges include a lack of household resources, suboptimal parenting practices, and the prevalence of neighborhood crime, violence, and other risk factors, all of which inhibit poor children’s ability to succeed academically. In recognition of the fact that the societal conditions primarily responsible for these encumbrances are unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, this Article argues for the creation of voluntary, public boarding schools as an option for educating underprivileged children from as early as Kindergarten. Though boarding young children is rare in the United States, it is not uncommon in other countries such as England and China. And as the SEED Foundation and others have demonstrated, there is a meaningful demand for boarding school education among members of poor communities and significant private and public sector support for bold education reform efforts. Recognizing that this proposal nonetheless will likely be met with resistance, this Article addresses a number of potential objections, including the suggestion that it is motivated by a desire to deprive underprivileged children of their cultural identity and that it is not financially feasible.
  • Boarding school,
  • poverty,
  • opportunity
Publication Date
March 20, 2012
Citation Information
Bret Asbury. "Public Boarding Schools: Extending Educational Opportunity to Disadvantaged Children" ExpressO (2012)
Available at: