Is this the right time for Wake County to scrap the new choice plan and move to a base school assignment plan starting in the 2013-14 school year?
As noted in today's article, critics say problems have developed in the choice plan to warrant directing staff today to begin developing the switch back to an address-based plan. But supporters of the choice plan say it hasn't been given enough time to work.
"It's arrogant of them to do this and to disregard the parents who had problems before," said Republican school board member Chris Malone.
Malone said that some revisions of the choice plan would be understandable for the 2013-14 school year, but not discarding it. He said that most Wake families like the new plan.
A similar argument was raised by GOP board member John Tedesco, who said the choice plan needs more time to be evaluated before going back to a node-based plan in 2013.
“I’m not surprised this is something they are willing to do,” Tedesco said. “We’ve known for a long time they’ve wanted to go back to the failed policy of busing and telling families where they should go to school instead of having them choose.”
Harvey Schmitt, president of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, said it's appropriate for the school board to be reviewing the data from the choice plan. But he said there hasn't been enough time yet to have gathered data to say that the choice plan should be dropped.
Schmitt said that dropping the choice plan so soon could undermine public support for giving more money to the school system for operating needs and for a bond issue.
"The school system is legitimately try to instill confidence and credibility for additional funding," Schmitt said. “The more confusion and instability there is in the system, the more difficult it is to build critical mass for more funding."
But Democratic school board chairman Kevin Hill said that changes such as going to a base school plan shouldn't be a surprise.
“We’ve been saying all along that once we have the data and see where the student assignment plan is taking us, we’d review it and see where we can improve it,” Hill said.
Fellow Democratic school board member Christine Kushner pointed to how they didn't make a decision to stop the plan for this fall.
“We’ve been very deliberative,” Kushner said. “We didn’t rush in and make precipitous decisions. We’ve looked at the data. Now is the time to look at where we are and go forward.”
Kushner said Wake needs to have a "fair plan." She defined it as one that:
* Doesn't create additional high-poverty schools,
* Provides predictability of assignments (i.e. a student who lives three houses from a school should be able to attend it),
* Uses school capacity efficiently.
As for potentially dropping the controlled-choice plan, Kushner said Wake already had a choice plan, pointing to how people could apply to magnet schools and STEM schools.
"We've had choice for a long time," Kushner said. "Wake County has had a lot of choices."
One of the arguments from supporters of the choice plan is that it provides stability and ends reassignment.
"People are being reassigned right now," Hill said. "“When you get your third- or fourth-choice school, don’t tell me that’s not reassignment, We’re just not calling it reassignment.”
Tedesco said there's a difference between a student not getting his top choice and moving a node with hundreds of students.