Enforcement is the easy solution for transfer issue

We strongly support school choice, rejecting the notion that a student’s home address or the size of his or her parents’ bank accounts should be determining factors in the quality of education that any child receives.

All schools are not created equal.

That is why we have been pleased with Republican efforts in Raleigh to expand the number of charter schools in the state and to also fund scholarships that enable children from poor families to attend private schools, although we worry about public dollars financing curriculum that says dinosaurs and humans cohabited.

It is troublesome when escape routes from sorry schools are blocked for parents who genuinely want their children to benefit from a strong education.

But one child should not benefit educationally at the expense of another — and some members of the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County are arguing that is a consequence of a transfer policy that isn’t necessarily lax but doesn’t appear to be enforced.

While not specifically allowed by the system’s transfer policy, it’s clear that a majority of the requests in the local system are for convenience — an attempt by the parent to have their child attend school near their workplace. That would explain why Prospect Elementary, which is near The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Tanglewood Elementary, which sits beside Southeastern Regional Medical Center, are the most cherished destinations. It is also true that both schools have strong reputations locally for educating their students.

But, as noted in staff writer Gabrielle Isaac’s page 1A story today, some school board members worry that the policy is contributing to crowding in some schools. Despite this fret, the school board is approving transfer requests for the upcoming school year at a rate of more than 90 percent.

School board member Dwayne Smith has floated the idea of a transfer fee that he believes would reduce the number of requests. The school board’s attorney at a recent retreat promised to see if such a fee were legal, but even if it is, we have another concern. Slapping a fee on a transfer would benefit those who can pay it to the detriment of those who can’t, and public education locally would bend a bit further in the favor of those with financial resources.

Smith, who sits on the school board’s Policy Committee, says that it will look at what can be done to reduce transfers.

Our belief is nothing is needed beyond enforcing the existing policy.

According to information this newspaper was provided, almost all of the transfer requests for the current school year came in after the April 1 deadline, but they were still accepted and most approved. If the school board is genuinely concerned about crowding at some schools because of a high number of transfers, enforcing the deadline would be a logical first step, one that might not require a second step.

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