To the editor:
To accompany our many snow flurries this year, Alna has also seen a flurry of recent controversy over K-8 school choice. In my view, much of it has been fueled by incomplete information. Alna’s student numbers have certainly risen in recent years, but this rise has been driven almost entirely by a natural phenomenon: our town’s birth rate. Restricting K-8 school choice will have little impact on our education costs. Restricting our residents from having babies? Now there’s an idea that could make a difference!
K-8 school choice began in Alna in 1999, according to our town’s annual report from that year. Despite arguments to the contrary, more than 15 years of K-8 school choice haven’t made our town population any different than those of other nearby towns. In 2015, the last year for which comparative data are available, Alna ranked seventh in the percentage of its population made up of school-age (5-19 years old) residents as compared to all other towns in Lincoln County. Alna’s total population has remained essentially stable, with a 1.8 percent decrease from 2000-2015. By these measures, Alna is surely not experiencing unsustainable growth due to school choice. Population figures referenced are from the Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission.
Alna is a unique and beautiful place to live. It has an independent spirit that is reflected in part by our ability to choose our children’s schools. School choice in Alna isn’t broken and in March, when it comes up for a town vote, we don’t need to fix it.
Stacey J. Rees