State Rep. Brad Pollitt, R-Sedalia (Photo courtesy of Tim Bommel, House Communications)

At least 40 states have open enrollment, letting K-12 students attend a public school district outside of the district they live in. Missouri could become the next one.

By a vote of 85-69, the state House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow open enrollment to begin during the 2024-25 school year. The vote count was close- a minimum of 82 votes of approval is required for House passage. With a Republican supermajority, the vote count also shows not all Republicans are on board with open enrollment.

Under the proposal, districts would not be required to participate in open enrollment. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) or an entity skilled in policy development would be required to develop a model open enrollment transfer policy. All public schools must adopt the model policy, regardless of participation in the program; however, each school board can modify the model policy based on the district’s needs.

The bill allows districts to restrict the number of transferring students to 3% of the previous school year’s enrollment.

Some student athletes would be sidelined. Students who participate in open enrollment in high school would not be allowed to participate in varsity sports during the year of enrollment in a nonresident district, in some instances.

School funding would follow the transfer students, which means the district they are leaving behind would lose the student and the funding. Another aspect to consider is how open enrollment could impact school staff size.

Is open enrollment good for students? It depends who you ask.

House Bill 253 is sponsored by State Representative Brad Pollitt, R-Sedalia.

“This is not a political ploy,” said Pollitt. “The folks that have been blowing your phones up knew the day that I was elected and the first time I met that open enrollment was something I was interested in that I didn’t believe that an artificial boundary should determine where you go to public schools. I personally believe this is a very pro public school bill.”

Districts would not be required to accommodate special education students. Pollitt said schools could reject admission to a student if the district lacks staff or a program.

State Representative Raychel Proudie, a school teacher and counselor from Ferguson, did not hold back on her opposition.

“This bill is trash. It is absolute trash,” said Proudie. “And the poor children with disabilities who are going to go and they’re not going to be able to take advantage of this, this, whatever this is, I can’t even call it a program, is real unfortunate. So don’t give me that foolishness on the internet talking about we want to good education for all children when schools can deny protected classes students.”

State Representative Maggie Nurrenbern, D-Kansas City, said open enrollment pits schools against each other.

“You’re competing for each other,” she said. “You’re saying who’s better than the other one? What is incredible about my community? What is incredible about many of our communities, whether you’re a rural school district, whether you’re an urban school district, whether you’re a suburban school district, is school districts collaborate, they work together, they bring everybody up, they share best practices, they many times share resources that collaboration is what makes our schools great. Can we do anything, real legislation that actually improve student achievement and student growth? That’s what I want to see. This legislation, if passed, will continue to segregate students by race, by class and by ability.”

The proposal heads to the Missouri Senate for further debate.

Copyright © 2023 · Missourinet