The three-year battle for school choice between the Knox County and Corbin Independent school districts continues without resolution as the non-resident school agreement between the two systems festers into a third year.
At issue: should students who live on the border between the Knox and Corbin systems be allowed to enroll in either district?
For many years, the answer was an amicable “Yes.” With that amicable agreement in place, state support dollars followed the students to Corbin.
That changed in 2009 when Knox County got greedy. Knox wanted state school support money for students who lived in the county but chose to attend Corbin Independent instead. So, in an action that treated students like cattle, Knox cancelled its unrestricted transfer agreement in 2009. That set off a continuing battle of annual appeals going all the way to the Kentucky Department of Education for resolution.
So far, the department resolutions have been piecemeal, time-limited attempts that mostly just prolonged a status quo situation in the vain hope that the two school districts would work out something permanent on their own. That approach simply extended the fight.
It seems that greed too often beats reason every time in Kentucky school fights.
Throughout this feud, what worked best for the students – and Corbin works MUCH better for students – didn’t matter. For example, in 2011 testing of Kentucky 11th grade students with the ACT college entrance test, Corbin Independent students got an ACT Composite Score of 20.1, which ranks 18th best out of the 169 Kentucky school districts that have high schools. In sharp contrast, Knox County only scored a dismal 16.8, ranking far lower at 160 out of 169 districts.
So, it’s not about what is best for kids. It was, and remains, mostly a money fight.
If parents are willing to enroll their children across a district, and pay extra tuition for the privileged, why should they be denied that right?
This ongoing struggle needs resolution in favor of what is best for kids, not adults. If the Kentucky Department of Education lacks the determination to do what is right for kids, it is time for our legislature to finally step in and settle this dispute in favor of school choice. It is tiring to see educators viewing students as little more than dollar signs to be corralled into failing school systems. It is time for choice to create real competition that makes school systems like Knox either improve or go out of existence (for example, maybe the much better, education-oriented governance structure at the Corbin Independent schools should take over the entire county’s school system).