School choice survey leaving out key question?

Matt Grant

School choice survey leaving out key question?

By Matt Grant. CREATED Jan 18, 2012 - UPDATED: Jan 18, 2012

FORT MYERS - A Lee County school board member says the district is bungling an expensive plan to reconsider school choice.

The district is inviting all Lee County residents to fill out a survey from Feb. 1 through the end of the month to let them know how they feel about school choice and other education-related issues.

However, of the roughly 20 questions on the survey not one asks if you think school choice should stay or go - they very question the district is trying to answer.

"Don't dance around it just come right out and say it," one parent said. "Ask it. Find out what the public wants."

"I think it should be black and white," said another parent.

One thing is black and white - the price. The district is paying Texas-based Gibson Consulting more than $112,000 to conduct the survey.

Board member Don Armstrong says for that kind of money they should have include the question: "Should the district keep school choice or switch to neighborhood schools?"

"When I originally agreed to this survey and thought it was a great idea," said Armstrong, "that was the one thing I wanted to make sure was in there, that exact question, and it's not."

At a Wednesday afternoon news conference to promote the survey we asked superintendent Dr. Joseph Burke why that question wasn't included.

"Why not just ask the residents directly what they want?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.

"Well, I think we were going on the advice of the company that's been designing these kind of surveys all over the place," said Burke.

"I think the questions are designed to get a more nuanced response," said Burke. "But a response that could clearly indicate a direction we could move in."

Armstrong says there's another problem. He claims the questions are weighted against neighborhood schools.

"I think it's biased," said Armstrong. "There's a few questions in there I find biased."

"I just have to respectfully disagree," Burke responded. "The survey is in fact not biased."

Burke feels the survey will give the school board an accurate picture of what you want. But if it the results come back split?

"Then we're going to be pretty much where we are right now," said Burke.

If you want to fill out the survey you have to pick one up at district headquarters or go online to www.leecountyvoice.com starting Feb. 1.

Surveys are due back by Feb. 29 and will be used by the board to determine the future of school choice.

Read previous story: School choice survey 'skewed?'
Watch superintendent's full news conference

See draft version of survey for adults
See draft versions of survey for kids

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com