Every year the Southborough School Committee must decide whether to open up enrollment to non-Southborough students as part of the state’s school choice program. This year, as in years past, the decision was no.
The school choice program allows parents to send their children to schools in communities other than the city or town they live in. Districts that participate in the program get paid tuition for each out-of-district student they accept. In Southborough’s case, the tuition would be $5,000 per student.
At a school committee meeting in May, Superintendent Charles Gobron said the cost to educate a student “far exceeds” the $5,000 tuition, so there’s no financial pay-off for the district. Accepting out-of-district students could also lead to space issues in the schools, he said.
Gobron said that while there’s a perception that school choice leads to greater diversity, that’s not necessarily the case. The program works through a lottery system, so the district wouldn’t get to choose which students got accepted.
After a brief discussion, the school committee voted unanimously not to participate in the school choice program.
The vote means Southborough won’t accept out-of-district students, but students living in Southborough can still choose to go to school in districts that do accept non-resident students.
According to the Mass Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, few towns in our area participated in the program during the 2008-2009 school year. Ones that did include Westborough, Hudson, Ashland, and Holliston.