We wanted to take a moment to share with you the Jacksonville Public Education Fund's thoughts on the Open Enrollment policy recently proposed by Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. Under this policy, all students in the district would be able to sign up to attend any school with available space in the district, regardless of their zoned "home" school. Transportation, however, would not be provided.
This issue has generated a lot of conversation in the community. Citizens have reached out to us on both sides of this issue, raising questions and concerns, particularly about the impact of the policy change on our district's historically under-enrolled schools in the urban core.
As we do with all issues, our research team set out to learn all they could about similar Open Enrollment policies throughout the state of Florida and across the country. We found many communities that had such policies, some for many years, and the impact of the policy varied significantly. Download the research white paper here.
We also spent a lot of time looking at patterns of student enrollment (see an interactive visualization here) and choice in our public schools, and thinking about how this change could make the district more competitive with non-district choices, particularly charter schools and private schools, which continue to attract significant numbers of students. Submit your thoughts in this survey and we'll make sure your perspective is shared with district decision-makers.
After this period of reflection, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund has has concluded that an Open Enrollment policy could give parents and families the opportunity to select a school that best meets the needs of their children. It is imperative, however, that the school district focuses on ensuring equity of access to these choices. Based on the research, we fully support an Open Enrollment policy subject to these recommendations:
- The school district must immediately analyze the costs of providing transportation to students as part of the Open Enrollment plan and seek to provide transportation in the 2014-15 school year. Failing to provide transportation, particularly for low-income families, will lead to only the most well-resourced families being able to participate.
- Put resources into a marketing campaign to help the community understand the significant efforts being made to improve some of our lowest-performing schools, particularly in the urban core. This type of campaign is critical to help these schools to overcome often-inaccurate perceptions of their quality.
- Seek community input about Open Enrollment now and throughout the implementation. The community forums being held this week are a good start, but the community should guide the rollout of the program.
What you can do right now
- Take the survey and share your thoughts.
- Learn more about Open Enrollment by reading the white paper written by our research team. You can also click here to explore a map of schools by enrollment capacity.
- Register to discuss Open Enrollment, among other topics, with public education advocates at the ONE by ONE Delegate Reconnect meetingthis Tuesday, March 25
- Attend one of the community meetings being held by the school district tonight, March 24, at Atlantic Coast High School or this Wednesday, March 27 at Matthew Gilbert Middle School from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Learn more.
- Attend the Duval County School Board Meeting on April 1 at 6 p.m., when this issue will be decided.
Our public education system continues to change for the better every year. We know this change is difficult at times, but we see Open Enrollment is an important next step in ensuring every parent and student can find a public school that meets their needs. Join the conversation and make your voice heard on this issue.
Cindy Edelman, Chair, and Trey Csar, President