Gazette Editorial Board
Open enrollment has become fairly common in Iowa since its launch 23 years ago. Last year, more than 25,000 students attended public school in a district other than the one in which they reside.
Its popularity also has not come without some controversy. One of the contentious issues involves transportation, and a nearby example surfaced recently. In May, the Anamosa school board voted to close its borders to buses from neighboring school districts, specifically citing Monticello and Mount Vernon. The board wanted to avoid giving district parents incentive to send their kids elsewhere. It’s also a policy that the majority of Iowa districts use, state officials told us.
While we understand Anamosa and other schools’ concerns about losing students and the accompanying state funding to other districts, we don’t think a bus ban serves the overall intent of open enrollment.
Under state law, parents or guardians are responsible for transporting their open-enrolled students to and from a site on a bus route of the receiving district. The receiving district cannot send its buses into the sending district to pick up such students unless the boards of both districts agree. (Exception: If an open-enrolled student’s family income is less than the designated minimum, and the sending and receiving districts are contiguous, then the sending district must provide transportation or provide reimbursement to the parent/guardian.)
This law needlessly inconveniences some parents and children. And for others, it creates a negative incentive instead of focusing on what best serves families and how districts might improve.
And if a district is willing to spend the money picking up open-enrolled students from other districts, why make it harder? In those cases, districts also shouldn’t expect the state to cover their additional cost.
As the push for education reform in Iowa continues, this issue and other open-enrollment flaws should be on the table.
n Comments: thegazette.com/category/opinion/editorial, firstname.lastname@example.org