Letter to the Editor

School Choice key to population stability

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dear Blytheville School Board members:

At its regularly scheduled meeting on March 12, 2014, Blytheville Unlimited passed a resolution to request the Blytheville school board to opt into school choice in Blytheville, as allowed under Arkansas Act 1227, the Public School Choice Act of 2013.

Blytheville Unlimited is an organization formed to support economic development in the city and the basis for this request is an interest we hope you share, in the economic strength of Blytheville.

Population stability is critical to Blytheville and has a significant impact on the city's ability to attract retail outlets and restaurants, in addition to its powerful effect on current business, the housing industry and city tax revenues. A number of factors affect decisions on where people choose to live, but history verifies that schools are a leading determinant. By force-feeding the Blytheville Public Schools as the only educational option for families, people can be deterred from moving into this city, although we are a city that needs all possible help to steady the population and effectively compete for economic expansion.

The Blytheville disadvantage is amplified by the fact that every other school district in Mississippi County offers choice, and statewide, more and more of the schools who in 2013 opted out of choice are now reversing their decisions.

We believe that for the community as a whole, a reversal of your decision will be healthy and well-respected. Many residents have already exercised school choice by paying tuition out-of-state, acquiring jobs that allow their children to attend schools in other districts, or simply by moving away. That fact, combined with the caps accorded in the state legislation, make it likely that the Blytheville School District would experience minimal reduction in student population, while the community, in contrast, stands to make gains. Blytheville could see an influx of new families into the city, and would probably retain families who are currently considering moves to other school districts.

The Blytheville Unlimited viewpoint is by no means a criticism of the Blytheville District's efforts. The district has made great strides with the addition of New Tech and in improved testing. The Act of 2013, however, gives us more opportunity for growth, and this is an advantage Blytheville needs.

We ask you to partner with us in building a stronger, more viable city, and we ask you to accept the economic growth responsibility we all share by considering the broader community needs. Please take a step forward and allow school choice in Blytheville.

Randy Scott, president
Blytheville Unlimited