Open enrollment policy seeks solution to problem that does not exist

The bad news is that the Kansas State Legislature has apparently found a solution for a problem that does not exist.

The good news is that there are two more school years for the Legislature to change its plans.

The Legislature has approved the concept of “open enrollment’’ for K-12 school districts in the state, scheduled to go into effect after two more school years. The new “open enrollment’’ policy would allow parents to enroll their children as students in a school district outside the district they live in.

Supporters of the new policy said they pushed it as a way to increase academic opportunity. They also claim it could help homebuyers find more affordable housing.

School districts in Kansas are currently set up with well-established geographic boundaries that are necessary when it is time for each district to establish assessed valuation of property in each district for local taxation purposes.

The Legislature’s new “open enrollment’’ policy does not address what to do about districts’ assessed valuations, if “open enrollment’’ ever became a popular and well-used option.

Also, it should be stated that each district in the state already has the authority to offer open enrollment to students of families that live outside of district boundaries. The new state policy will make it mandatory, depending on student capacity.

The new state policy requires school district leaders to first determine their district’s student capacity. If there is room for more students, then students from families outside the district could apply - but if there are more applications than there are available spots, them the district must turn to a lottery system.

And while per-pupil state aid funding follows a Kansas K-12 student to whatever school district they get enrolled in, property tax revenue from out-of-district real estate would not.

Therefore, parents of students enrolled in a school district, other than the one their home is geographically located in, would not be contributing any local school tax funds to their students’ school district. 

Can you imagine the bad feelings that will occur when new students from out of the district take the starting positions on the football team over the previous in district starters from a family that lives in the district and pays local school taxes? That is just one example of the problems that could arise with this kind of new policy. These kinds of problems already happen on smaller scales at our schools now.

The only students who might benefit from this new school policy are the ones whose parents can’t afford to move into the school districts that they want to enroll their kids in.

Kansas school districts already have the option to allow out-of-district students to enroll in their district - on a case-by-case basis.

Some families may be able to move out of so-called “wealthy’’ school districts where property values are high, to other so-called “not-so-wealthy’’ school districts where property values are not so high, but still send their kids to the wealthy school district - if the daily commute is not too far.

There is no such thing as a perfect K-12 school district. This new policy by the Legislature tries to find a solution for a problem that does not exist.  The current system giving K-12 school districts the option to accept out-of-district students has worked well for many years.

Kansas school kids, for the most part, should go to public schools in public school districts where their parents live and pay local school taxes.  

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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