Federal law requires districts in need of improvement to set aside 20 percent of the federal funding for school choice and tutoring at schools in need of improvement. An additional 10 percent is allotted for extra training of teachers at schools with low-income students.
Unfortunately, few students are taking advantage of the transfer option. About 16,000 state students were eligible in 2010 to attend a different public school. Of those, 194 students — about one-tenth of 1 percent — actually transferred.
The lack of participation isn't due to transportation problems as school districts are required to transport students to the new school. Many parents are either ignorant or apathetic about the available choices for their children and others also would prefer to stay in neighborhood schools.
The transfer provision has become a headache for districts in locking up much-needed federal money, which they can't spend.
The state's waiver, if approved, likely will result in fewer schools landing on the needs-improvement list. The drawback for students will be that fewer will be eligible to take advantage of the transfer and tutoring options in the current law.