Lawmakers table statewide school choice idea

Posted May 5, 2014

— Skeptical state lawmakers on Monday put the brakes on draft legislation that would allow North Carolina families to choose to send their children to any public school statewide.

The move by the Joint Program Evaluation Oversight Committee doesn't kill the school choice effort but makes it less likely to come up during the short session of the General Assembly, which starts next week.

The bill, authored by Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, would have allowed students to enroll in the school of their choice, either in their home districts or in other districts, beginning in the 2015-16 school year.

State and local per-pupil funding would follow the student to his or her choice of school, even across district lines.

Carol Shaw of the legislature's Program Evaluation Division said districts could still deny a student from getting his or her choice in schools for reasons such as overcrowding or previous disciplinary issues. Also, students wouldn't be allowed to switch schools to get on a different athletic team, per North Carolina High School Athletic Association guidelines, she said.

"It's not a guarantee that they would have the option to apply to go to any school," Shaw said, but districts would be required to draw up policies for handling school choice applications.

Still, Reps. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, and Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes, expressed reservations about opening up enrollment across their districts – let alone across the state.

"This bill, I think we may need to spend a little more time discussing," Holloway said, noting lawmakers probably need to talk to their local school superintendents about the logistics of a school choice program.

"I think it would just throw school systems into utter chaos. Especially if you have school systems where you have schools that are full and they can’t hold any more children," Starnes told WRAL News.

"You’re going to have students competing for a very limited number of seats, and the parents want to put their children into the best school, and so if they perceive that their school is not a good school, then they’re going to move it over," Starnes said. "I just don’t know how you’d ever manage that."

Rep. Marvin Lucas, D-Cumberland, said he was also concerned that the proposal would only encourage, not require, districts to provide bus transportation for students choosing to go to a school other than the one to which they're assigned. That might preclude students of "meager means" from participating in a choice program, he said.

The North Carolina Association of School Administrators also is skeptical of the bill, noting students moving across district lines might affect funding disparities between districts, given that counties provide different levels of local support – both operational costs and school construction funds.

The Wake County Public School System tried school choice briefly in 2012. The short-lived experiment resulted in a chaotic enrollment process and busing problems that lasted for weeks.

Starnes said when he read about the proposal, he could tell it would be a problem in his Caldwell County district. “I wouldn't even want to think about what would happen in Wake County,” he added.


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  • marinodelong May 11, 2014

    As long as my children don't have to go to leesville elementary school and get bullied every day while the teachers and administration do nothing, I'm cool.

  • Terry Watts May 6, 2014
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    A bit off-topic... But seeing as how its Primary Day, what's your view on Voter ID???

  • Terry Watts May 6, 2014
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    You're entitled to feel that way...

  • lasm May 6, 2014

    I should not have to move to exercise my rights.

  • Terry Watts May 6, 2014
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    You have the right to pick any public school you want... by moving into that district.

  • lasm May 6, 2014

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    Excuse me, but the taxes I have paid in this state for 43 years have paid for my children's school education and part of everyone else's for those 43 years. Gov't has no money-the money comes from taxPAYERS. "Free" education? I don't think so. And yes, everyone has the right to choose a private school or home schooling; but I also believe we have a right to choose any public school as well. After all, we pay for them. The state gov't figures out how to accomplish everything they want; so I believe they can figure out how to do this also.

  • Grand Union May 6, 2014

    How does someone as dumb (and/or evil ) as Mr Hartsell get elected?
    How could that possibly work? Individual Schools don't have room for everyone that might want to go to them. How would they decided who to let in and who to deny......reality is the motivated wealthier parents would get their kids into the schools with the best records (they could afford the time and cost of transportation) and the the rest would be left in increasing "sink" schools. Its simply resegregation by stealth, a dumb or more likely, in this case, an evil idea.

  • hiddentreasurescruecds May 6, 2014

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    So you don't want the government involved....except to actually pay for the schools, the teachers, the buses, & everything else that goes into a public education. If you don't like where the county, state, or federal government tells you to send your child for their free education than YOU are free to choose a private school or provide homeschooling for your child.

  • Doug Pawlak May 6, 2014
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    Lasm-"How long are citizens of this free nation going to let the gov't make ALL your choices? "

    No one is stopping you from moving to a school district of "your choice" or sending your kids to private school, or even homeschooling them.

  • lasm May 6, 2014

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    Then you would not be required to make that choice. The school district or county would make it for you. Your "choice" to not "choose" should not negate those who DO want to choose from having that choice. How long are citizens of this free nation going to let the gov't make ALL your choices? Do some of you never ask yourselves "Who is in charge of MY children, me or the gov't"? As long as the gov't is in charge of all your decisions, you are not able to make choices for yourselves and your family. Have you ever asked yourselves why there are-what some of you call-"good (public) schools" and "bad (public) schools"? Why do we have this variation? Shouldn't one public school be as good as the next one? If it were so, I don't think this discussion of choice would be an issue.