BOE Chair Responds to Letter Critical of Open Choice: “Sharing the Facts”

To the Editor:

In response to the Letter to the Editor by Lisa Pojano published in GOOD Morning Wilton on June 30, 2021, I would like to share some information on the Open Choice program presented to the Board of Education at our April 29 meeting by Superintendent Kevin Smith and Dr. Charles Dumais, Director of Cooperative Education Services (CES), the regional educational service center for much of Fairfield County.

Main points of the April 29 presentation included:

  • Background on legislation regarding the program:  Project Open Choice is a voluntary, interdistrict public school attendance program that proposes to “1. Improve academic achievement; 2. reduced racial, ethnic, and economic isolation or preserve racial and ethnic balance; and 3. provide a choice of educational programs.” (from older state legislation)
  • Recent legislation expands the program to include Norwalk and Danbury as sending districts. The program is overseen by the CT State Department of Education and coordinated by the regional educational service centers, which is CES for Wilton.
  • Participation by receiving districts is voluntary.
  • CES provides transportation for the Open Choice students at no cost to the receiving districts.
  • The State Department of Education provides a grant of $3,000 per each Open Choice out-of-district student, assuming the number of out-of-district students is less than 2%. (The grant increases if the percentage is greater.)
  • If an Open Choice out-of-district student requires special education or related services, the sending district pays the amount equal to the difference between the cost of services and the $3,000 grant paid by the State Department of Education.
  • If a district chooses to participate, it also determines how many students to accept and at what grade level(s).
  • Applications are available for students wishing to participate. The earliest possible enrollment in Wilton is in fall 2022.
  • CES manages the student applications and uses a random number generator to provide a rank order for applicants for the seats available.
  • Once enrolled in the Open Choice program in a district, the student has the same rights and responsibilities as any other student enrolled in the school and they are treated in the same manner as any other student. They remain in the district until they graduate, unless they move from Danbury or Norwalk to another district. In that case, they enroll in the schools in their new home town.

The full briefing document presented at the meeting can be found online.

In addition, the presentation at the April 29 BOE meeting is available online.

The Board of Education took no action at its April 29 meeting. We anticipate a recommendation regarding the program from Dr. Smith in the fall, after we examine our enrollment numbers and projections to determine to what extent space may be available. If Wilton were to participate in the program, Dr. Smith has indicated that openings would most likely be made available in the early grades and the total number of students admitted would be small.

Because Board of Education members have not yet fully discussed the program at a meeting nor been presented with a recommendation from the Superintendent, it is inappropriate at this time to provide commentary beyond sharing the facts we have been presented.

Sincerely,

Deborah Low
Chair, Wilton BOE

2 COMMENTS

  1. What a deal- it costs Wilton $15K/Student (or whatever) and we get a grant of $3K per open choice out of district student. What a deal! We’re losing money by not participating!
    oh and once they are in the Wilton district they are there until they graduate. so we lose $10K/year for 18 years. That doesnt sound too voluntary. LOL!

    What a Trojan horse. Wilton should run screaming from this

  2. Dear Ms. Low, Thank you for providing GMW with these facts – very helpful for all of us.

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