Commentary by Josh Mitchell
Corinth Today News Editor
In his speech at the Republican National Convention this week, Donald Trump Jr. made some statements about school choice that reminded me of a controversy within the Alcorn County School District.
Recently, Alcorn County School Board members have debated the issue of students transferring out of the district to go to other schools.
Some say the district should consider decreasing the number of students who transfer out of the district while others say the parents should be able to decide where to send their children to school.
In his speech, Trump Jr. indicated support for letting the parents decide where their children should go to school.
“You know why other countries do better on K-12?” Trump Jr. said. “They let parents choose where to send their own children to school. That’s called competition. It’s called the free market, and it’s what the other party fears. They fear it because they’re more concerned about protecting the jobs of tenured teachers than serving the students in desperate need of a good education.”
Throughout the debate, there have been statements made that the Alcorn School District loses money when a student leaves the district. Losing that funding hurts the overall district, which has many maintenance concerns, Superintendent Larry Mitchell has said.
The school board has been fairly divided over the issue of students transferring out of the district. There has been discussion of tightening up on the policy to decrease the number of students who transfer out of the district. But others, including School Board President Randy Wilbanks, have said that the school district should not stand in the way of parents when it comes to school choice.
“Who knows more about what their kid needs than the parents?” Wilbanks has said.
Rather than forcing students to stay in the district, Wilbanks has said he would rather find out why they are leaving and fix the issue so they want to stay in the district. It is bothersome when students transfer out of the district, said Wilbanks, adding that he thinks students can get an excellent education in the Alcorn School District.
Trump Jr. noted that he and his siblings were fortunate to have educational choices growing up but said others do not.
“We want all Americans to have those same opportunities,” Trump Jr. said. “Our schools used to be an elevator to the middle class; now they’re stalled on the ground floor.”
He compared the nation’s schools to “Soviet-era department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers, for the teachers and the administrators and not the students.”
The controversy over the student transfers is not over. A proposal is currently on the table to change the student transfer policy. It was developed by a committee of parents, teachers and community members.
It is expected to be considered by the school board at the next meeting. Committee Chairwoman Jodie Fiveash said she hopes the proposal results in solving some of the district’s problems so parents want to keep their children in the district.