Ep. 154: School Choice in Pop Culture – Jane the Virgin

January 7, 2020

Alexis Price, our marketing coordinator, and Drew Catt, our resident state research guru, chat about some school choice themes that appear in the popular TV series Jane the Virgin. For a different podcast experience, check out the video recording of this episode.

Alexis Price: Hello, and welcome to another episode of EdChoice Chats. I’m Alexis Price, marketing coordinator, and actually new voice on this podcast. This is my first time on the podcast since starting here last January. So, that’s pretty exciting. Terrifying, but exciting. I’m joined today with Drew Catt, our director of state research and special projects, and we are here to talk about Jane the Virgin for our school choice in pop culture podcast. So, thanks for joining me, Drew.

Drew Catt: It’s great to be here. So, Alexis, would you kind of tell our views, listeners, those that aren’t familiar, what Jane the Virgin is about?

Alexis Price: Yeah, so it’s essentially about a woman who is a virgin. And she is, in the very first episode, accidentally artificially inseminated. It’s a mouthful. And so she goes in for an annual checkup. Obviously there’s an incident and because it’s an accident, her current boyfriend is not the biological father. So, the show then just follows her journey for the next five seasons of becoming a mother and dealing with sort of this love triangle, I guess. And it’s set up to kind of mirror a telenovela, which is a Latin American soap opera. So, it’s has a flair for the dramatic. So, there’s a love triangle, there’s crime, there’s long lost relatives that you didn’t know existed, things like that. So, it’s pretty fun and dramatic.

Drew Catt: So, you seem pretty knowledgeable about the show.

Alexis Price: Yeah, so I’ve been with Jane the Virgin since the beginning. Season five just wrapped up a couple months ago, and I’ve watched every season at least two, if not three times, besides the final one because it’s not on Netflix. But I’m a little bit of an aficionado I would say. What about you?

Drew Catt: I’ve caught a few episodes here and there. It’s one of my wife’s favorite shows and she and my sister-in-law talk about it a lot. So, I hear snippets and I’ve watched maybe two or three full episodes including the one that’s featured today.

Alexis Price: Yeah. So, this is season four. Mateo, Jane and Rafael’s son, is of school age now. So, they are trying to figure out where they want to send him to school. And Rafael is a bit of a hotel tycoon at the beginning of the show. So, he’s pretty rich and they never really had to worry about where they were going to send Mateo to school before. But Rafael lost his inheritance so he’s kind of broke right now. So, let’s go ahead and play this first clip. They are going on a tour of the neighborhood public school.


Clip 1:

Rafael: I don’t sell real estate. I buy it.

Jane: Priorities, please. This is going to be Mateo’s school for next six years.

Rafael: Six years? No way. One tops. I’m getting my money back.

Jane: Well, even so we might love it. I have great memories of the public kindergarten I went to.

Rafael: Here?

Jane: No, this one was overcrowded and I was reassigned, but don’t worry. OK? Class sizes are capped in Florida now, so just give it a chance, OK?
No way in hell is Mateo going there. Now I see why their ratings are so low. The building is falling apart.

Xiomara: I’m so sorry, hun. I know you want it to love it.

Jane: It is so unfair. It has half the budget of public schools in wealthier districts. How is that OK? I mean, it’s a vicious cycle. Rich kids get better schools, better education, get into better colleges, earn more money, put it back into their schools.
Narrator: Preach, mama.

Xiomara: Could you ever convince Rafael to go Catholic? It’s way less expensive than private. Ro, I mean we, could probably afford it.

Jane: Isn’t he still paying off the De La Vega-Factor Factor lawsuit?

Xiomara: Yeah, but I’ve seen our finances. We can spare it.
Jane: Let me check if there are any openings first before asking dad and Rafael. But thank you.

Xiomara: Cool.


Drew Catt: OK, so—

Alexis Price: A lot to unpack.

Drew Catt: That is a lot. So, who’s that character there at the end?

Alexis Price: In the pink shirt?

Drew Catt: Yeah.

Alexis Price: That’s her mom. So, that’s a Xiomara or Xo.

Drew Catt: Yeah. And that’s really interesting. So, for those of you that are not familiar with school choice in the state of Florida, which is where the show takes place.

Alexis Price: Yeah, Miami.

Drew Catt: The Miami area. So, there is the McKay Scholarship, which I’m not sure whether or not Mateo has special needs. So, I’m not sure whether or not he’d qualify. And then the tax-credit scholarship program, he may qualify, but there might be a little issue it sounds like with the family finances, since there is an income limit on that program, and usually the income is determined by previous-year tax return in a lot of States. So, if his last tax return showed he had a fair amount of money, even though he doesn’t currently, they may or may not qualify depending on how the scholarship funding organization looks at the finances, whether it’s current paycheck, or previous tax return.

Alexis Price: Yeah. Because even as a couple months ago, [Rafael] had a fair amount of money. So, his tax return would have reflected that. And Florida has five school choice programs right now, correct?

Drew Catt: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Alexis Price: And two of them are for special needs. So, I actually had a question about that. A couple episodes later, we don’t get into it in any of these clips today, but Mateo is diagnosed with ADHD. And from my understanding, I don’t think that would be protected under IDEA or anything like that, correct?

Drew Catt: It depends on whether or not he receives a diagnosis and an IEP through the school.

Alexis Price: Gotcha. Gotcha. And I don’t think they go into that, but would that be something that would qualify him for the McKay Scholarship or anything like that?

Drew Catt: I would have to double check the student eligibility criteria, but I believe he would qualify for the McKay but not the Gardiner program, which is the ESA program in the state because it is very, very specific with what disabilities, diseases, or illnesses a student has to have a diagnosis for in order to be eligible.

Alexis Price: Gotcha. I think the last thing I want to touch on here, another question for you. So, Xo, Jane’s mother, says that Catholic school is cheaper than private. Is that true? Is that just like generally true? Or is she making a pretty broad assumption there?

Drew Catt: You know, based on the surveys of private schools that I’ve done in various States, I haven’t really looked at Catholic versus non-Catholic. But in general, a lot of church-affiliated schools, including the Catholic schools, are going to have a lower tuition or sticker price. And in a lot of places, that’s because it’s the mission of the church to serve the disadvantaged and the needy. And they will take donations from the congregation and apply that towards scholarships for students in order to offset the full cost.

And especially if you’re comparing to the NAIS schools, which is the National Association of Independent Schools. Those are usually what a lot of people in our nation think of when they hear the word private school—the elite boarding schools, these large private academies that are far from the norm of what a private school is.

Alexis Price: OK.

Drew Catt: Now, I’m also interested in your take on the mention of like school grading and the facilities and how much those matter for a learning environment. I know we both grew up going to the same school district. You had a slightly better high school in terms of facilities than I did. And I don’t know, I feel like I still got a—

Alexis Price: Oh yeah, because you were at the old high school. Yeah, the old high school.

Drew Catt: Right. I feel like I still got a good education, even with the building not having air conditioning.

Alexis Price: Yeah, I was thinking about that, too. So, yeah, we came from same town, same school district. And when I started, our town built a new school. And I think back to my public school education. And by no means do I think that I had it terrible or that I was gypped. I turned out OK I think. I’d like to think so.

Drew Catt: I mean, we’re both here.

Alexis Price: Yeah.

Drew Catt: Yeah.

Alexis Price: But I think if I were to have children someday, would I send them to the school that I went to? Probably not, just because I think… Most likely my child is not going to turn out like me. And for me, the traditional public school model, it worked because of who I am. It worked for me. But say our child is more so like my partner, that model didn’t really work for him. So, we’d have to really evaluate our options. And then just going into her talking about the infrastructure of the school and things like that is really interesting, because I don’t know, there’s just so much to unpack there because you get into the arguments of public school funding and things like that.

Drew Catt: Yeah, I know. It was really interesting to me the connection that she made in the clip about the school grade and the quality of the facilities, because quality facilities doesn’t impact the school letter grade or the number or the star rating for all the states. So, that’s kind of interesting that she made that connection.

Alexis Price: Yeah.

Drew Catt: Let’s see what this next clip has. Is there anything that you want to set up for the next one?

Alexis Price: I don’t think so. This is her dad that she’s talking to. He’s a pretty big telenovela star, so he has a little bit of money, but he’s going through a lawsuit issue right now.


Clip 2:

Rogelio: And Alejandro is the ugliest kitten I have ever seen.

Jane: Bad time?

Rogelio: Of course not. I always have time for my beloved daughter.

Jane: Oh thanks, dad.

Rogelio: Just make it snappy, I have 10 minutes.

Jane: Right, so the short version. I found a great Catholic school with one spot left. It’d be perfect for Mateo. It’s just the cost.

Rogelio: Say no more. I will pay for everything your heart desires… in the near to long term future.

Jane: I’m not following.

Rogelio: Well, I’m having a few very trendy financial issues. It’s possible that I overspent a bit to this past few years, so I’m tracking Johnny Depp’s lawsuit. I can see his business managers to see how that plays out. If Johnny loses, I know it’s my fault that I bought a time share in Cancun and part of that vineyard after my business managers warned me not to. But if Johnny wins then I can sue them for my own financial negligence and I am back in the game, baby.

Jane: Got it. Don’t worry, I’ll find the $8,000.

Rogelio: Wait, only $8,000? Why didn’t you say so? That’s less than I spent to shoot Ricardo Montalban’s ashes into outer space.

Jane: You can swing that?

Rogelio: Well, of course.

Jane: This is the deal of a lifetime. I’m telling you, you’d be crazy not to get in on it. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Rafael: Sorry. You know how I feel about Catholicism, all that doom and gloom stuff. It’s not what I believe in.

Jane: Do you believe in a great education?

Mateo: All my teeth are brushed. Can you please tickle my back? Please, please, please?

Rafael: Yeah.

Jane: Sure.

Rafael: Come on.

[Texting sequence – ends at 12:18]

Mateo: Ow, can you guys tickle less hard?


Alexis Price: I just have to say I love Rogelio so much. He’s so over the top. He’s just enjoyable to watch. Again, a lot to unpack there, too. So, I don’t know what you know about their relationship with Catholicism in terms of their relationship and raising Mateo, but Rafael is pretty anti-religion, anti-Catholic. He grew up that way, had a bad experience essentially. Jane, her mother, her grandmother, all of their beliefs are very much rooted in that. Her grandmother is a first generation immigrant, very much preaches Catholicism. And Jane went to a Catholic school, so that’s a big part of who she is. And then they have a lot of arguments about how they should raise Mateo, and praying, and things like that, and kind of what they want to do for him in terms of that. So, Jane proposing this idea for a school, obviously she went to talk to her father first to get the money and didn’t really talk to Rafael about it.

Drew Catt: The fact… I’m still just like, “Oh, $8,000. That’s nothing.”

Alexis Price: Yeah.

Drew Catt: Like, man. I wish we all had someone in our lives that could do that for our children, because so many of us don’t.

Alexis Price: No.

Drew Catt: And that’s why it’s great that states like Florida have the programs that are in place for the families that don’t just have… The children that don’t just have a grandparent that can swing $8,000 just like it’s shooting someone’s ashes into space.

Alexis Price: Yeah, I don’t know. I think you really kind of just hit it on the head with that. Obviously this is a work of fiction. Like I said, flair for the dramatic. So, of course he’s a big star and you have Rafael who is pretty well off. And like I said, they didn’t really have to think about where they were going to send Mateo to school before this point because they could kind of just send him wherever. So, this is the first time that Jane, as a mother, is really experiencing what it’s like to come up short monetarily and not be able to send your kid exactly where you thought you were going to. Because she comes from a low-income background. I mean, even currently she’s a waitress and a grad student so she isn’t making a whole lot of money.

Drew Catt: I remember those days. Yeah.

Alexis Price: So, she’s had Rafael to kind of lean on in terms of supporting their son.

Drew Catt: And I think that last part of the clip, the whole like, “All caps is yelling.” I feel like there’s so many people on social media, my dad included, that could learn that lesson.

Alexis Price: Absolutely.

Drew Catt: So, with that, is there anything to set up for this next clip?

Alexis Price: I don’t think so. I think we can just kind of dive right in. So, let’s go ahead.


Clip 3:

Jane: We need to talk about Mateo’s school situation. Because of my accident, I missed the appointment for Our Lady of Mercy and now we don’t even have the option of Catholic school. Can you not smile? That was the best option we had.

Rafael: I have another one. Did you know that your parents live in the Elbamare school district? It’s a great public school with a nine rating, plus music, art, TK. We can enroll Mateo next year using their address.

Jane: And lie about where we live? Of course, of course your option is to lie. Why am I surprised?

Rafael: That’s not fair.

Jane: But it’s true. I mean that’s what you do. You try to game the system. Why wouldn’t you? You grew up rich and entitled and you think that the rules don’t apply to you.

Rafael: It was your grandmother’s idea. Yeah. So, as you’re climbing off your high horse, try not to break your other leg.

Narrator: Well hello, douche Jane.

Jane: I don’t understand. You told Rafael that we should lie to get Mateo into a better school?

Alba: It’s what we did for you.

Jane: What?

Alba: Remember those years you were in public school? When you were relocated because our school was overcrowded? Well, it wasn’t overcrowded. It just wasn’t good.

Jane: You use somebody else’s address?

Alba: A friend from church. Until we could save to get you into Catholic school. What else could we do? It was your education. Your future. It meant everything. Which you would have realized two years ago, but you had Rafael’s money to help you.


Alexis Price: OK, so Jane has a little bit of a rude awakening there of something that she didn’t really realize. And typically I would have to say that Rafael is usually in the wrong, in my opinion. He does come across kind of entitled. So, she often does assume or kind of use that as a mode of argument against him. But in this case, it was something that her abuela did. So, obviously if we go back to that first clip when she’s talking about the school that they were touring, she would have went there, but it was overcrowded, because they’ve always kind of lived in the same neighborhood.

Drew Catt: Yeah, I kind of wonder like how many people out there had a parent or grandparent lie out their school district and they themselves have no idea. It’s kind of fascinating to think about.

Alexis Price: Yeah. I mean because what do you do in that situation? When you have a small child who is going to a school, like overcrowding seems like a pretty good excuse. How are they going to explain that they don’t actually live in that district or something like that? And we’ll get into that later with Mateo because they ended up following through with this—spoiler—and they use her parents’ address.

But I had another question for you. So, I think I read in, it might’ve been an episode review somewhere. I might have to go back and check. But somebody had said that in Florida there is an open enrollment process to where the school district or the school that is in Ro and Xo’s, her parents’, neighborhood. If that was not filled to capacity that Mateo would be able to enroll and they wouldn’t have to lie about the address. Is that accurate?

Drew Catt: Oh, that’s a really good question.

Alexis Price: Because I don’t really know anything about open enrollment, especially I don’t know anything about Florida too much.

Drew Catt: Yeah, I’m familiar with open enrollment, but I’m not sure like state-specific policy around it. I just know more like what which states do or do not allow inter- or intra-district transfers thanks to the Education Commission of the States report that is released every now and then. There’s a great table on the ECS website if you’re interested in that sort of thing. But no, in terms of the particulars, like I know that some states and some districts you can only transfer at the beginning of a semester. I don’t know if others allow it per quarter or by month or ad hoc, whenever. But yeah, that is really interesting.

Alexis Price: That’s something that I’ll look into then because I had wondered.

Drew Catt: Like here in Indiana, it’s basically if you are at capacity, you do not have to accept any out-of-district transfers. So, there are a handful of basically wealthier, white suburban districts north of downtown that are in that area of being at or over capacity and not accepting out of district transfers. In fact, one of my wife’s friends, it was probably like two or three years ago, they were doing some family planning and so she was just having a conversation with her principal about like, “Oh yeah, it would be great for my kid to go here.” And he was like, “Well, you’d have to move into the district.” She’s like, “What?” And she’s like, “Yeah, we’re way over capacity. Unless you live in the district, your child cannot go here even if you are a teacher at this school.”

Alexis Price: Wow.

Drew Catt: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a little extreme. But I understand it from a class space perspective. But yeah, no. If there’s room, that’d be amazing.

Alexis Price: Yeah.

Drew Catt: Yeah. The difference between what is allowable in policy and what happens in practice can be astounding.

Alexis Price: Right? Yeah.

Drew Catt: It’s also terrible to hear that one missed deadline and one piece of paper not being in the right place at the right time means that their child cannot go to the school that she wanted him to go to.

Alexis Price: Yeah, because yeah, after a long fight she finally got Rafael to agree, because that seemed like the best option. Yeah, and she missed her meeting because of her accident.

Drew Catt: If I remember right, she was jumping off a roof to impress a boy or something along those lines?

Alexis Price: Yeah. Yeah. We don’t get into that, but she’s dating someone who is a little more young, and yeah, she jumped off a roof.

Drew Catt: Which the dating someone else because the relationship with her son’s father was not a relationship before he became her son’s father.

Alexis Price: Right.

Drew Catt: Still, like…

Alexis Price: So many things going on that we don’t even have time to get into. But yeah, anything else you want to say about this clip before we move on? I mean, there’s a lot there, but I think we’ll have more to talk about when we watch these next…

Drew Catt: Yeah, I’m still just struck by… I still wonder how many people, like how many of you out there, if you talk to your parents, your grandparents, can find out that they lied about the address. If so, reach out. We’d love to have you featured on our blog, hear your story.

Alexis Price: Absolutely.

Drew Catt: And it’s also scary to think about how many states have resource officers that will follow parents home from school to make sure that they live where they actually live.

Alexis Price: Really?

Drew Catt: Because it is a crime to lie about your address.

Alexis Price: I didn’t know they had people follow them home.

Drew Catt: I’ve heard a few stories, especially out of New Jersey, I believe. Well, with that, I think we have at least one more clip.

Alexis Price: Yeah, I think we have two more.

Drew Catt: Perfect.

Alexis Price: Yeah.


Clip 4:

Jane: The financial privileges you’ve given this family has been huge. And parenting without it is going to be harder and lead to making harder choices. And so let’s do it. Use my parents’ address.

Rafael: Don’t worry, it won’t be for long, because I’m going to get it all back. The money, the hotel, everything.

Jane: OK. But until then the family is going to need to make some changes.


Alexis Price: You know, if someone were playing a drinking game while watching Jane the Virgin, they would get totally obliterated if you drank every time Rafael said he was going to get his money back. He’s very reliant on that. So yeah, in this clip, essentially you see that Jane agrees to use her parents’ address. And they go forward with it and you’ll see that Mateo has been there for a couple of weeks. So, when we get to the next clip, it’s a few episodes later and he’s been there for a while. But yeah.

Drew Catt: OK. Let’s just dive right into that next one real quick.


Clip 5:

Jane: I can’t believe Petra didn’t tell you.

Rafael: I know, and I need to be done with that, with all the lying. Which is why I don’t want Mateo lying about his school.

Jane: What? No, that isn’t fair.

Rafael: OK, OK, hold on.

Jane: No, we made this decision and I get that you’re suddenly—

Rafael: So, I found a studio apartment in your parents’ school district and I just signed the lease.

Jane: What?

Rafael: I sold my car, paid through the year. I’ll take the bus to work or carpool with you.

Jane: You can totally carpool with me. You got an apartment?

Rafael: Don’t get too excited. It’s super small. I didn’t even know they made them that small.

Jane: It sounds amazing.


Alexis Price: OK, so to provide a little context, right before this, at the beginning of the episode, Mateo makes his first friend at school, and Jane and Rafael come to pick him up. And Mateo’s like, “Can we have a play date? Can we have a play date, please? And Jane’s like, “Yeah…” And then before she can get out the rest of the sentence, Mateo is inviting the kid to come over to his house right now and the other kid’s parents are there.

So, it becomes this pretty comedic scene where Rafael runs over to Xo and Ro’s, and is trying to set up the house to make it look like it’s theirs. Jane is stalling. They get there. The parents eventually find out that it’s not theirs, not their house, but they’re pretty cool with it. They’re like, “Some other parents aren’t as cool as we are. So, just be careful.” And Jane and Rafael have this moment where they realize they had to make Mateo lie about where he lives and they feel uncomfortable with making him lie. So, you have this sweet moment where it’s kind of, everything’s wrapped up in a little bow with Rafael moving into the district and things like that.

Drew Catt: So, my question is, so do they move in with him or does he just live there?

Alexis Price: No, he lives there. Rafael and Jane, they’re just co-parenting. They’re not together. So, Jane still lives in her childhood home. And then I don’t know what they do in terms of custody. So, I don’t know how that works.

Drew Catt: Because I know that there can be some issues around like what is the main residence v. secondary residence for a child, and like what district they can get into. So, I mean depending on the state laws and policy, they could still be, “lying” about where he lives full time. It’s just fascinating.

Alexis Price: Yeah. And I would assume just because of how Jane is, I mean I’m sure you could tell, but from the few episodes you’ve seen that she’s pretty controlling and likes to have things her way.

Drew Catt: And the rule follower.

Alexis Price: Yeah, she’s the rule follower.

Drew Catt: Yeah.

Alexis Price: Yeah, so obviously, in real life things aren’t wrapped up this nicely and it’s not always easy for people to just move into a district. We talk about that all the time where that’s a big reason for school choice programs because not everyone has the means to just uproot their lives and move to another neighborhood or another city or whatever it is.

Drew Catt: Very few of us have the means to just, “Oh, I’ll just get an extra studio apartment just so my kid can go to this school.” Although, you hear that it happens.

Alexis Price: Yeah.

Drew Catt: But that’s just, wow.

Alexis Price: And I think at this point in time, since Rafael lost his inheritance, he lost the hotel—which he lived in like a penthouse in the hotel or something. So, at this point he was living with Jane, her mother, and her grandmother and Mateo all in this one house. So, I don’t think he had a house or anything at this point. But yeah, so he sold his car, I guess, which I assume was a pretty, pretty luxurious car if he got to keep that. So yeah, anything else you want to touch on with this?

Drew Catt: No. It just shows the importance of not mandating that you have to go to the school based on where you live because it might not be the best fit. It might be a good fit. It might be an OK fit. You might still get out of your hometown and go off, go to college, and find yourself at a wonderful nonprofit working on education policy research. But that doesn’t happen for everyone. I mean, I’m sure there were a lot of people that were in my class that it wasn’t the best fit for them. I’m sure you could probably think of some people that that school wasn’t the best fit for them either.

Alexis Price: Yeah. I have four other siblings and we are all very different. So, I always think about, I mean, since starting here, especially, I think about how would my sister, how would my brother have done differently in school if they went somewhere else? I think these clips really put all that in perspective, kind of takes it back to the roots of school choice, if you will.

Drew Catt: And it shows what lengths parents will go to to ensure that their child has the—

Alexis Price: Selling their cars.

Drew Catt: Yeah.

Alexis Price: And I think that happens. You hear stories about that happening. People selling cars, people selling whatever they can, or working two, three jobs to make sure that they have a little bit extra to pay for the child’s school.

Drew Catt: Yeah. And in an ideal world, ZIP code wouldn’t matter. Income wouldn’t matter. We’d have programs in every state where children are allowed to attend any school that they and their parents identify as the best fit for them.

Alexis Price: Yep, I think that’s a good note to end on.

Drew Catt: Yeah, we’re getting there.

Alexis Price: Yeah.

Drew Catt: We’re just getting started.

Alexis Price: Yep. So, thank you for joining me.

Drew Catt: Yeah.

Alexis Price: Yeah.

Drew Catt: It’s great to be here, Alexis, thank you so much.

Alexis Price: Yeah, for my first podcast. I appreciate it.

Drew Catt: Yeah, video nonetheless. Going big.

Alexis Price: Yeah. So, thanks for joining us for this episode of EdChoice Chats, our School Choice in Pop Culture series. Subscribe on wherever you listen to podcasts and follow us on Twitter @edchoice. And we’ll see you next time.