Friday, March 17, 2000
Public Hearing on School Choice
The Massachusetts School Choice Program had its public hour Tuesday, March 7. Time was set aside at this regular school committee meeting for townspeople and the school population to discuss and learn about this complicated program, in which the Carlisle Public School has never voted to participate.
Massachusetts in 1991 passed an interdistrict choice law that gave parents the option of enrolling their child in any district they selected, provided that district had voted to receive students under the program. The tuition for a child wishing to be in a School Choice program and enter the school system of another district would be deducted from the sending district's state aid and added to the receiving district's state funds. Each town, however, must have an annual public hearing and vote whether to open its school system to students from other towns.
The underlying purpose behind the School Choice program is the hope that the public debate surrounding the choice process and the ability of families to choose their schools will foster support for stronger schools and serve as a warning for those with weaknesses.
Carlisle School Committee Chair David Dockterman said, "Regardless of philosophical views, the Carlisle Public School has no room for additional students." Superintendent Fox-Melanson said, "We could fill the school two times over." She also said, "This policy does not prevent a Carlisle student from going elsewhere." In the past, students have gone to other schools for the convenience of parents who work at other schools.
School Committee member Nock related that this policy has become burdensome for some of the schools which voted to try this plan, and they are now voting to phase it out. Once a school district has voted to accept students it must be responsible for them through twelfth grade.
The general discussion during the open meeting on March 7 indicated how complex the School Choice issue becomes for all communities. If the policy is implemented, funding amounts become unstable as does the student population, support for activities, and the planning for special need services. There is also the issue of transportation for students coming from different towns. The concept of neighborhood schools is diluted.
School parent Amy Mestancik, a member of the audience, said she would support continuing the present policy not to participate in a School Choice program. A final vote will be taken at a future school committee meeting March 21.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito