Ohio

Eye on Education

Task Force Offers Suggestions to Tweak Open Enrollment Policy

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COMEDY_NOSE / FLICKR

Open enrollment‘s been around for 25 years in Ohio.

And the state’s school districts have three options when it comes to the policy that allows schools to take in students that live in other districts.

They can choose to accept students from anywhere in the state, welcome students only from adjacent districts, or choose not to have any outside students at all.

A task force made up of superintendents and school treasurers from across the state recently finished a three month review of the guidelines and are recommending five total changes.

But one state senator said that might not be enough.

About 80 percent of districts allow statewide open enrollment or adjacent district open enrollment. The 20 percent who don’t give the green light to open enrollment tend to be clustered around urban districts like Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus.

The group’s chairman, Reynoldsburg City School District Superintendent Steve Dackin, said the group created five recommendations. Two of those looked at the process side of open enrollment, and three were on the finance side. Those were the ones that were the trickiest to create, he said.

“We’re not recommending any kind of significant overhaul here,” he said. “We’re simply saying the policy in general is good for Ohio. We want to see it sustained and we want it to be sustainable.”

One of the most significant recommendation, he said, is to funnel unused state funds into districts that lose money when students go to school in other districts and take their allotment of per pupil state funding with them.

“We’re not asking for more money here,” Dackin said. “We’re asking for, if there’s appropriate funds that go unspent by the end of the fiscal year, then those funds can become part of a state pool for those districts that are experiencing a loss.”

State Sen.Tom Sawyer, D-Akron, doesn’t think that’s a good move. He initially introduced the legislation to reexamine open enrollment, and says the state pool idea just isn’t feasible.

“The number of dollars available to do that are insufficient to deal with the problems they described,” Sawyer said.

Actually, Sawyer wasn’t overly impressed with any of the group’s suggestions.  He says financial issues weren’t adequately addressed, and important areas like academics and the social implications of open enrollment weren’t even discussed.

“If there’s one thing that this report makes clear,” Sawyer said. “It’s that there’s no clear plan into a murky future.”

The report now is sitting with the governor and the state legislature.

A representative from Gov. John Kasich’s office said the governor just recently received the recommendations and is “looking forward” to reviewing them.

You can read the entire report on the Ohio Department of Education’s website by clicking here.

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