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Op Ed on Open Enrollment

October 15th, 2009 by mopns · No Comments

By Joe Knodell

In October legislative hearings regarding Open Enrollment will begin. Last session’s Senate Bill 291 authorized the Joint Committee on Education to study the issue of public school open enrollment, and to solicit input from the public. The study and hearings will culminate in a report and recommendation to the general assembly next session.

Why go to a public hearing?

The public hearings will be an opportunity for Missourians to give their stories, opinions and knowledge, and have input on legislation that can help students get access to the most appropriate education. It’s a rare opportunity to get involved in the legislative process and add personal knowledge to the conversation. The quality of Missouri’s public education affects all of us, whether we have children in school or not.

What is Open Enrollment?

Missouri’s public schools receive students from within a defined district and (with a few exceptions) students are confined to attend the school their geography assigns them to. Open enrollment is a way for students to transfer outside of their assigned district. 25 states have open enrollment, and individual districts work within guidelines to develop local application processes. The main tenant of open enrollment is that per-pupil spending follows each student to the school they are accepted to – accepted not by merit or location, but by lottery, capacity or financial need, depending on the guidelines of each state.

Why have an Open Enrollment policy for Missouri?

The main impetus behind open enrollment is to give families more than one option of where their child may attend school. This offers a very simple solution to a variety of avoidable problems, such as gaining access to a nearby school’s services for special needs children, and families who are physically closer to a school in an adjacent district.

In Missouri, for instance, there are 19 schools in neighboring districts that are actually closer for many families than the district school, by as many as 15 miles. It makes sense for those families to have the option to attend a closer school. It makes sense for families to be able to apply to a nearby public school if they feel it would be a better fit for their child. It also increases competition between schools to offer excellent scholastics, cutting down on the complacency that can sometimes happen when student population is static. We have the opportunity to be a part of the conversation asking how Missouri can implement open enrollment to improve public education. The expertise of parents, guardians, teachers and communities make that conversation complete.

Hearing Dates:

Tuesday, October 20 at 5:00 p.m., Jefferson City, Capitol Building, Room SCR 1

Thursday, October 29 at 5:00 p.m., Branson, location to be determined

Thursday, November 4 at 5:00 p.m., Crystal City, location to be determined

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