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How Would Trump Jr. View Alcorn School District’s Student Transfer Controversy?

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.

Josh Mitchell
Josh Mitchell

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.

 

3 Comments

  1. Larry Mitchell Larry Mitchell July 21, 2016

    The answer is quite simple to me, parents do have a choice in where their children go to school The choice is made when they buy, build or rent their home. The only exceptions to this according to state statues is children whose parent teach in another school district and those who live thirty miles from their home school. If students can choose their school, then school boundaries and district lines aren’t necessary. I believe most people who can choose the school they attend might choose to live in rural areas where taxes are cheaper and then pick schools that have higher taxes and tax bases.
    I care about the Alcorn County children and my goal is to see that these 3250 children have the same educational opportunities and educational facilities as other children in other districts have. In order to reach this goal our district officials must protect the financial integrity of this district by taking action that would reduce the number of students that leave. The cost of allowing students to leave this district (just those last year) was around $700,000. That amount of money would go a long way in purchasing teaching materials , technology and upgrading facilities.
    There are at least 300 children who live in the Alcorn school district that attend other schools in other districts. Multiply 300 times $5300 ( the approximate amount the state pays each district per child). That number is $1,590,000.00. each year that this districts looses.
    Our student enrollment has decreased from about 3800 in 2005 to 3250 at the end of school last year. Our state income has been reduced accordingly.
    The Alcorn School District has good students and good teachers. Our test scores are competive with other districts. Our district has done quite well with resources we have. It’s awful ease for people who know very little about the finances of this and other districts to be critical and make statements like “find the problem and fix it”. The problem as I see it is we need to reduce the number of students who leave this district so we can reach finically stability.

    • Sylvia Sylvia July 25, 2016

      Our choice is the little exceptional school that you recently closed. Our house is in Rienzi, in the appropriate location for our school choice!

  2. Jay Knighton Jay Knighton July 24, 2016

    Oh man, Mr. Mitchell, you are very out of touch with reality! Parents have a choice when they buy, rent, or build? I cannot believe you actually wrote that statement. Few families anywhere, much less Alcorn County, are sufficiently mobile to permit them to migrate to the good schools, as you suggest. An incredible number of factors contribute to location of residency. And what if they did as you suggest and move??? Did it perhaps cross your mind that you would be in the same exact position, plus, you just advocated for the destruction of the property tax base and local businesses and churches dependent on those dwellings.

    Please ask yourself why students and parents seek educational opportunities elsewhere. What is your graduation rate? How qualified are the teachers? What are the measurable test scores for higher educational advancement? What are the transferring schools offering that the present school does not offer?

    The School Board is on the right track by interviewing the parents who desire to take their kids elsewhere. Hopefully someone on the Board is smart enough to use that valuable data to improve the school system. Meanwhile, you should strongly consider changing your tune, digest the information explaining why students want to transfer, then seize the oppurtunity to improve the schools.

    Improving schools and providing a positive educational experience is the most important aspect here, wouldn’t you agree, Mr. Mitchell? As you said, the answer is indeed quite simple.

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