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As a record number of parents withdraw their kids from East Longmeadow public schools, the school committee voted to increase “student choice” numbers in grades 3 and 6. According to Superintendent Gordon Smith, the increase in student choice numbers is “about equity.”

“School Choice” is a statewide program that allows families from outside East Longmeadow to enrolled their kids in our school system. Our town receives about $5,000 per year for each student brought in through school choice.

The school committee can vote not to participate in the program. It also can determine the number of students that will be admitted from outside of town.

Although the committee can select which grades will receive these students, they may not consider a student’s academic abilities or even whether he or she can speak English. Instead, the student-selection process is completely random.

East Longmeadow began participating in the program two years ago. Since that time, there has been a drastic increase in the number of East Longmeadow parents withdrawing their kids from the town’s public school. (Surely, COVID policies had something to do with the decline in enrollment, though the committee has made no effort to learn why residents don’t want their kids in our schools.)

Currently, 51 East Longmeadow parents are homeschooling their children. That number is nearly double the average for the town. (Mr. Smith noted that the district usually has just 22 or 23 homeschooled kids.) As noted in prior committee meetings, the district’s schools have also lost an unusually large number of students to private and parochial schools in the area.

Last night the committee voted to increase the number of school-choice students from 15 to 30. Of the 15 new students, 8 will be seated in our 3rd grade classes and 7 will be enrolled in the 6th grade.