Frustration grows over Florida ‘school choice’ law

POLK COUNTY, Fla.  (WFLA) – Choice or no choice?

Next school year, a new law goes into effect that is designed to allow parents to choose where their kids go to school, even if it’s outside their district.

This new law may sound good to parents, but they need to keep in mind that each school has a limited number of seats and that means some parents might not get their first choice.

As you might imagine, most of the higher performing schools are full and that means the Controlled Open Enrollment program is giving some parents no choice at all.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” said mom Jessica McCormick, from her Mulberry home.

She’s not talking about taking care of three-year-old Christopher and one-year-old Cameron.

Instead, she’s frustrated about trying to transfer her five-year-old son, Clayton, to a higher-performing school.

On Monday, the very first day parents were allowed to request the transfer, she had a huge shock.

“How all of a sudden is every, almost every high-performing school in the area that was previously open to transfers now automatically closed at capacity?”  McCormick posed the question to News Channel 8.

What’s worse?

Jessica already told officials at Clayton’s current school, Sikes Elementary, that he won’t be coming back next year, because she was assured, she claims, he’d have a spot at the new school, Highland Grove

Now, she’s caught between a rock and a hard place, as there’s no room at either school.

“Because all the good schools are closed in my area and any school in my area that is open as far as school choice, I would have to drive 20 to 30 minutes away to put him in a lower-performing school.”

We went to the school board to get answers and they told us only one person is very familiar with the program, and that woman is in a meeting all day.

They wouldn’t answer any specific questions, but did give us a broad answers about the program overall.

When asked if there was a choice for parents, spokesperson Jason Geary told News Channel 8, “Again, there’s a process that’s laid out.  It’s based on availability of the schools and the seating that’s available.”

“If you’re going to be closed at capacity, that should have been something that was told way ahead of time,” McCormick told News Channel 8.

For a list of Polk County schools and their ratings: http://www.polk-fl.net/news/newsreleases/documents/2015-16PolkSchoolGrades.pdf

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