Saturday, March 15, 2008

Providing equitable education and equitable access.

Karen Wolfe-Fritz, Edmonds resident and parent of a student in the District, shared concerns and questions related to the procedures in providing transportation to students in the choice programs, such as Maplewood and Madrona. She asked the Board why busing is only provided to those choice programs. She asked why, if a parent were to choose to have their student at a school other than their neighborhood school, why couldn't transportation be offered to them.

Ms. Wolfe-Fritz questioned whether the District's procedures complied with ensuring that all students were given equal access to education. She noted that Board members were stewards of tax dollars to ensure the provision of not only equitable education, but equitable access. She requested that the Board consider providing updated rationale and decisions that reflect equitability throughout the school district.

Her suggestions included either provide busing for all parents choosing to access another school for their children outside of the neighborhood or not to offer busing at all to any of the schools outside of a student's neighborhood service area. She suggested the Board consider that if the district wanted to consider offering choice programs in varying parts of the school district then parents should be asked to provide their own transportation.

Perhaps eliminating bus service entirely would best resolve issues such as these. Why would we leave it to a government agency to decide how best to spend public funds while public need goes unsatisfied? If every parent had to make arrangements to deliver their students to school, surely parents would find the most economical option available, whether it involves carpooling, public transportation, or homeschooling. Eliminating Transportation would make access equitable.

Regarding "choice programs", funding should follow the student to whatever school is selected. The students, with parents that care, will go to the better schools and the schools with dropping enrollment would either have to shut down or compete in a different way. Introducing a choice program could become a profit center and encourage schools to deliver a higher quality product or at least set themselves apart from other schools.

Perhaps funding should be tied directly to the academic performance of each student. If a student fails classes, they lose their buying power. They would start with a credit from the State, like the District receives, and they could choose to spend their allocation in a manner consistent with their career objectives. Consultations with parents could help each student determine their career path. If Johnny wants to become a rock star, let him take more music classes. If Susie wants get into college, let her dollars demand better math classes. No doubt it would promote student retention and diversify the spectrum of classes offered at public schools. I am just not sure there would be enough room for all of the X-box and skateboarding selections.

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