A task force has finished its review of guidelines on when and how school districts can take in students that live in other districts, and is recommending changes. It's a policy known as open enrollment, and as StateImpact Ohio reporter Amy Hansen reports, the lawmaker who pushed for creating the panel believes its report misses some key issues.
Under state law, Ohio’s school districts have three options when it comes to open enrollment.
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.
About 80 percent of districts have elected options one or two. The 20 percent who don’t allow open enrollment tend to be clustered around urban districts like Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus.
Reynoldsburg City School District Superintendent Steve Dackin is chairman of the task force. He said the group’s report mainly offers adjustments to make open enrollment more financially feasible.
"We’re not recommending any kind of significant overhaul here," Dackin 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.”
It’s most significant recommendation, he said, is to funnel unused state funds into districts that lose money when students go to school in other districts, taking their allotment of per pupil state funding with them.
“We’re not asking for more money here," he 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 he 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," he said. "It’s that there’s no clear plan into a murky future.”
Now, it’s up to the legislature and the governor to enact any of the report’s recommendations.