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BESE to Consider Alternative Funding for 'Course Choice'

State Supt. John White wants to reallocate $2 million from a state education trust fund to pilot the “Course Choice” program. The program will let students take individual classes elsewhere if their public school is underperforming or doesn’t offer the course they want. The state’s top school board will consider the alternative funding request Tuesday.

Course Choice was scaled back after the state Supreme Court ruled the new classes couldn’t be paid for with the pool of money mandated for the support of public schools.

To come up with the $2 million for the pilot, the Dept. of Education is delaying the development of more rigorous state science and social studies tests by a year and reducing discretionary allocations to local districts by $1 million.

Supt. White said Monday the changes should be easy for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to accept since the legislature budgeted tens of millions more for districts in the upcoming year.

“Reducing what they (BESE) chose to give by a million in light of the fact that districts are gaining by more than $100 million (a $69 million increase in basic support plus $30 million owed to districts as a result of the state Supreme Court decision) seems to me a reasonable thing to honor parents’ choices,” White said.

About 450 students have applied for classes through Course Choice so far, with a heavy emphasis on construction industry apprenticeships and Advanced Placement and Algebra 1 classes that are not available in many schools.

Originally, the Dept. of Education had aimed to enroll 4,500 students in for the upcoming school year. That’s been dropped to 2,000. And now enrollments will be further limited to high school courses.