- For almost 30 years, families in Minnesota have had the option of enrolling their children in a school outside the district in which they live, and according to new research by a state policy research organization, small, rural school districts benefit the most from that policy, according to coverage by the Mankato Free Press.
- The rate of students using the open enrollment option in rural Minnesota districts in the 2006-07 school year was 9%, and it climbed to 15% in 2016-17. Leaders of districts that accept students through open enrollment say the additional funding helps them cover expenses such as utilities and provide more educational programs.
- The policy can be controversial, however, when districts try to raise taxes for operating expenses or facility improvements because residents outside the district don’t pay those taxes, the paper reports.
Open enrollment can also create challenges as district leaders increasingly look at the racial makeup of their schools. In Ohio recently, a school district southeast of Cleveland has decided to stop allowing white students to leave the district because of concerns that its schools will become too segregated.
A report on open enrollment in Ohio, released last year from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, found that black students especially perform better academically when they consistently participate in interdistrict open enrollment programs, but that many of the state’s more affluent suburban districts don’t accept students from outside their district.
Another recent study on Michigan’s Schools of Choice, however, found no significant gains or losses in student achievement among students who participate. But the researchers suggested this could be due to the fact that families weren’t choosing other districts' schools based only on higher achievement levels.
“From that perspective, it may simply be encouraging that there does not appear to be any net loss with respect to student test scores,” they write. “Taken as a whole, neither supporters nor critics of this particular interdistrict enrollment program should look to participant test scores to make their case. The strengths or weaknesses of the program as a public policy appear to lie elsewhere.”