Lee County Schools
Lee County school choice: Should it stay or go?
School choice is an issue that has many of you fired up after at least board member proposed doing away with it. Video by fox4now.comvideo
LEE COUNTY - The future of school choice in Lee County is up for debate.
On Tuesday, school board members held a special workshop to talk about new options for the program that has many parents frustrated.
Gripping his pen tightly, school board member Don Armstrong listens on. He told Fox 4 Sunday that he supports ending school choice for elementary and middle school students but keeping the option for high schoolers.
"I think this is not something we can just drag out," said Armstrong Tuesday. "I think we need to be proactive and think about this."
It's an issue that has many parents divided. Supporters say it's all about giving parents choice and equal access to programs.
Critics say it's too costly, has created long bus rides and is a drain on the system.
"I think school choice has been a very successful way to organize our district," said Sue Jacobse, who backs school choice. "I'm in full support of it."
"The problem," said another person who attended the meeting, "is everyone wants to have choice. But it's the cost."
Armstrong says that cost could go down by as much as $10 million in transportation savings, if the district does away with choice.
The district isn't so sure. During a three hour slide show presentation , the district's planning division laid out a more downsides to eliminating school choice than benefits.
"Transportation will cost more for some period of time," said Mike Smith, with the planning division. "To transition from our current system to a boundary system."
Armstrong says he doesn't think that's true since buses won't have to transport kids "all over town."
"Transportation costs will increase going back to neighborhood schools?," said Armstrong. "I don't find that correct."
The district presented a number of options. One involves dividing the county into 48 elementary school boundaries. But with population shifts, Smith says those boundaries will constantly change.
"The newcomers will be guaranteed schools at their boundaried school," said Smith. "But they may not be able to stay there long."
"It's very important that we measure whatever we are going to do," said new superintendent Joseph Burke. "Against whatever it is we have to accomplish."
The district says if school choice were eliminated for elementary school children today, 23,000 kids would have to switch to another school.
MATT GRANT, REPORTER