First Look At Future Of School Choice

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The Education Committee got to be the first to get their hands on a very hot item. In July, the Student Assignment Committee was given the task of getting kids back to their neighborhood school.

The reasons for keeping students closer to home: unhappy parents, rising gas prices, and federal funding running out. Preliminary figures show that the district could save $2.8 million. The committee first recommends reducing staff at the Family Resource Center. The center has 11 staff members to assist parents in choosing a school. But the federal grant to pay for those staff members is running out. Under the proposed plan the district would only keep 5 employees at the location. In order to deal with predictability the committee is saying that when a family locates at a residence all students in the family will attend the school associated with that address. Lines have been drawn and the zones have been selected but that map was not provided to the Education Committee. It was discussed that the zones could be redrawn each year. Members also looked at the race and socioeconomic status of students. The Student Assignment Committee has chosen to use socioeconomic status as a primary factor in the assignment of schools. A students socioeconomic status is based on whether the student is eligible to participate in the Free and Reduced Lunch Program.

Board Member Mike Williams says, “They are correlating race with low socioeconomic status and assuming that by low social status that they can avoid having to say this is a racial issue."

Williams went on to say that he was disappointed with the lack of facts presented Tuesday night. Williams wanted to know how many students would go back to their home school. He goes on to say that there was no concrete figure given in regards to what research was used. In 1994 the U.S. District Court found the school district guilty of willful discrimination. Right now about 97% of district parents get the school of their choice and 3% don't. Parents select 3 – 5 schools in rank order of preference.

Right now seats are assigned by the following priorities:
1. Sibling and neighborhood priorities
2. Sibling Priority
3. Proximity Priority
4. All Others

About 70% of Rockford residents don't have a child in the district. But the district still uses your money. School officials say if we aren’t able to tell businesses what schools their children will attend then it’s going to have a big impact on the community. The Education Committee will now look to hire a facilitator then we will all have a chance to critique the plan.