Saturday, June 6, 2009

Open Enrollment- a Closer Look

A special thanks to one of the "WE" for putting this together.

The Wisconsin State Journal recently put togetheran article, that appeared on the front page regarding Open Enrollments in Madison Area schools(Open enrollment numbers for all Dane County school districts). For those who don’t know what Open Enrollment is and its effects on a school district, we can help. Open enrollment is when a student applies to attend a school in a different school district than where they live.

This is done for a variety of reasons; but the focus of the article was the Madison Area School District and their increase in Open Enrollment requests. The report suggests that the primary reason that students open enroll OUT of the school district where they live is because their home district is not meeting their needs and they are dissatisfied. From our experience the report is dead on with this assessment.

So what is the big deal with kids leaving a school district via Open Enrollment? First, when a student leaves the district for another district that student takes with them the funding that is provided by the State to the district to pay for their education. It’s a loss of revenue to the tune of roughly $10,000 per year/per student! Second, if a school district has a high number of students leaving under open enrollment it may be a sign of some problem in the district that is causing the students' parents to seek a different school somewhere else.
[SP-EYE: Anyone ever catch that short-lived Animal Planet series about an ER doctor specializing in snakebite victims? His tag line was "time is tissue". With open enrollments, the tag line is "losing kids is losing money"]

Back to the Madison Metropolitan School District. They are so concerned that their Open Enrollments out of the district are increasing they decided to survey the parents their reason behind the decision. What a novel idea! It seems like MMSD is saying, “Let’s see what’s going on to see if there is something we can do better or if it is just a trend that is beyond our control.”

So where does the SPASD fall compared to area school. The article places SPASD second in terms of net efflux from the district. The only difference here is that Sun Prairie seems to just accept the fact that there are some dissatisfied students and parents that are looking in other places for their needs. Unfortunately with the outward movement of these students so goes the money.

I’m sure the district will spin this as something that is inevitable [SP-EYE: We're taking bets that Dr. Culver will offer a spinning rebuttal in his District Super Adminisintendentrator comments at the June 8 school board meeting. Odds are 7-2, any takers?] and that there are students coming into the district under open enrollment that offsets the net loss. That might be true to a certain extent but wouldn’t it seem prudent to do as the MMSD did and survey the parents of students open enrolling out of the school district to see if there is some common thread or reason why they are leaving the district? Perhaps there is something that could be done to minimize or reduce the movement of students out of the district? I guess we will never know because the School Board and district Administration have talked about surveying these families for the last two years but it is nothing more that lip service to those who express concern over this issue.

The taxpayers of this district should demand that the school board, our elected officials, should require that the district survey the parents of students that have open enrolled out of the district over the last three years to see why they are doing so. Further the DO should be contacting the parents who have pulled their students from the SPASD and are now enrolled in private schools (another way the district loses state funding).

Unfortunately we think the issue comes back to the old adage, “Don’t ask a question if you really don’t want to know the answer.” After all what do you think the parents would say in their survey response that left the school district after the latest boundary change? We are pretty sure we have an idea and it is nothing that is too favorable of the school district. Our take on this is that while the district has a tremendous pool of teachers and support staff most residents are dissatisfied with the get-what-we-want-at-all-costs administration and spend-happy school board.

So it goes with SPASD, highlight and embellish the positive things in the district and bury the negative. If you are concerned over lost revenue and increasing taxes please contact all of the school board members and request that they have the school district do a detailed and meaningful survey of parents who open enroll their children out of the district and address the things in their control to stop the bleeding and the exodus of students from the district.
To contact the school board with your thoughts on this issue use the e-mail links provide in the menubar on the right.