Education fund: Transportation critical to open enrollment policy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Transportation is viewed as a critical link by a local education think tank as Duval County explores allowing students to attend schools outside their neighborhood.

Making open enrollment part of district policy is up for public discussion and possibly a vote on Monday, April 1.

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund has been studying the plan and favors the concept to allow parents choice in where their child attends school.

"I think transportation is the key to address a lot of the concerns we are hearing from the community," said Jason Rose, who is the director of data and policy for the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.

"We looked a half dozen cities around the country that have different models of open enrollment," said Rose, who noted some districts offer transportation while others do not.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti unveiled his open enrollment plan last month, saying it is needed to make public education viable and responsive to students and parents. He said the district could lose $50 million in funding as more students are opting for private and charter schools.

School board members have expressed concerns about the impact it would have in challenged communities if students opt to leave their neighborhood schools.

"We support this, we think it benefits every parent in the district to be able to have this choice. We do strongly encourage the district to ... look at ways to provide as much transportation to students who need it, " said Rose.

The public does have an opportunity to speak out about open enrollment at district budget meetings being held across the city. The next one is set for Thursday night at Matthew Gilbert Middle School. The meeting starts at 6 p.m.

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