Manatee school's offer raises eyebrows - FOX 13 News

Manatee school's offer raises eyebrows

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BRADENTON (FOX 13) -

Sure, most kids love video games, but you don't see many schools encouraging them, much less buying them for students.

But that's just what a charter school in Manatee County is doing. Over the last two years, enrollment at the Manatee School of Arts and Sciences has dropped by nearly 40 percent.

So six weeks into the new school year, they ran an ad in the Bradenton Herald, offering what some call a bribe -- switch schools by Thursday and get a free Nintendo DS, one of the most popular gaming devices for kids.

"I think the question became was that in good taste. Is that what we should be doing?" says Verdya Bradley, with Manatee County Schools.

"I don't believe that a gimmick is going to help your school. If you're looking at a game to get a child in school, there's probably been a reason the numbers have dropped off." says Julie Aranibar, a Manatee County School Board Member.

Aranibar sits on the Charter Review Committee, and says the offer's timing is suspicious, enticing kids to switch before Monday, when final student counts determine how much money schools get from the state.

"Right now, funding is at a critical time in education and I don't see it as a game at all," Aranibar says

And parents may not either. The district says so far, no one's taken the school up on its offer.

"You kind of want to shy away from a gaming system anyway. I think families try to do more, teaching their children other things instead of sitting in front of a game. So offering that is kind of surprising coming from a school," says Morgan Thien, whose son just started Kindergarten.

"I feel if you're going to go to school, you should be there to learn and the school should stand on its own merits, and not entice a child to come there because of that," says Andrea Healey, mother of two children.

The school's principal did not return FOX 13's calls Tuesday.

State officials say some schools have offered students incentives – including cash -- to do better on tests like the FCAT, but not for boosting enrollment.

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