A Florida legislator has proposed letting any child transfer to any public school in the state, as long as there is space available and their parents transport them. This smacks of an ALEC-style attack on communities and local control. This is not about improving education but satisfying choice ideologues. ALEC values free-market fundamentalism over community and local control. Will it improve education? No, but who cares?
The article appeared in the Florida Sun-Sentinel. It is behind a pay wall.
School choices could expand
Under plan, parents have option to send children to schools all over state
By Scott Travis Staff writer
Parents unhappy with their child’s local school soon could have a much wider range of new choices under a proposal that drops district boundary requirements.
The state Legislature is considering a bill that would allow students to attend any public school in the state that has space, as long as families are willing to provide their own transportation.
That could mean parents could leave D-rated Deerfield Park in Broward County and head four miles north to A-rated Addison Mizner Elementary in Boca Raton, which is part of the Palm Beach County School District.
Miami-Dade parents could move their children from D-rated Barbara Hawkins Elementary in Miami Gardens to A-rated Dolphin Bay Elementary in Miramar.
Students even could attend a school several counties away, as long as their parents can get them there.
“The money would follow the child,” said bill sponsor Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers. “This could be for a parent who works in a different county from where they live and wants to have their child close to them. Or if a parent thinks another school district has the best learning environment for their child.”
The bill, which passed the Senate Education Committee Thursday, would apply to public schools below 95 percent capacity. That’s most traditional schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties, which have been losing students in recent years to charter schools. Parents also could choose charter schools in other counties if there is room.
About 23 states have similar policies, according to the Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based policy group. In some cases they are limited to students who are low-income or are attending failing schools.
For Broward County, this would be an expansion of an existing school-choice policy. The district allows parents to send their children to any underenrolled public school within the county. Students who are attending a school outside their boundary can get busing only if it’s one of the district’s designated magnet or choice programs, such as the Nova schools and Pompano Beach High.
Sharon Aron Baron takes advantage of that policy. She lives in Tamarac but drives 20 miles each way to Parkland to drop off and pick up her children at Park Trails Elementary and Stoneman Douglas High. While she probably wouldn’t consider a school in another county, she supports the proposal.
“The students get the money from the state, so the state’s covering their education. I don’t see anything wrong with it,” she said. “But I think the amount of people who would take advantage of it would be very slim.”
Palm Beach County School Board member Debra Robinson said she would be interested in the option as a parent and grandparent. But as a school official, she has concerns, including whether poor children would benefit without busing. “I wonder if we’re just adding more opportunity to a limited few, while pretending these are opportunities available for all,” she said.
Andrew Ladanowski, a Coral Springs parent who advocates for school choice, agrees that could create a dilemma. But he said providing transportation wouldn’t be a good option either.
“The more money we spend transporting students around town, the less money have that gets into the classroom,” he said.