Eye on Education

Faced With Tight Budgets, More Ohio Schools Consider Open Enrollment

Karen Kasler / Statehouse News Bureau

Akron mom Kelley Williams-Bolar brought national attention to Ohio's open enrollment policy when she forged papers for her daughters to attend Copley-Fairlawn schools. Here she confers with her lawyer at a July 20, 2011 state parole board hearing.

Faced with a tough financial situation that shows no signs of improvement, more Ohio school districts are considering the idea of opening their doors to their neighboring communities via open enrollment.

Cincinnati Public Schools is considering it to help fill its budget, and not for the first time either. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the district considered open enrollment a decade ago, but the plan didn’t have enough support from the district’s board.

When a student transfers to a new district, $5,700 in state funding follows them. This year 372 students – and $2 million in state funding – left CPS for districts with open enrollment policies.

Open enrollment would allow students who live in other districts to attend CPS schools without having to pay tuition. Some districts only accept students who live in adjacent districts. Others accept students from anywhere in the state.

South Range Local Schools in Canfield is also considering opening their schools’ doors for financial reasons, but only to neighboring counties.

Open enrollment can be a tough sell for the existing school community, as the Salem News reports about a recent school meeting at South Range.

Several parents voiced complaints about open enrollment, though, expressing concerns such as bad elements coming in and open enrollment families not paying taxes to the school. Many of them encouraged the board to pursue a levy instead of open enrollment.

But school officials have pointed out that levies haven’t had much success over the last several years, and even if a levy were passed it wouldn’t fill the district’s budget hole completely.

Most districts in Ohio already have open enrollment.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, 64 percent of Ohio’s schools have open enrollment statewide, while almost 14 percent allow students in adjacent districts to attend their schools.

The policy has gotten mixed reviews since it was first passed by the legislature in 1989. School choice advocates support it, arguing that it gives students in poorly performing schools the option to attend a better school nearby. But critics say it drains already struggling districts of much needed state funding.



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