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Open enrollment: The good, the bad, the competition


by Trinity Gruenberg

    The Center for Rural Policy and Development released a report citing that more students are choosing open enrollment.

    As was intended when open enrollment was launched more than twenty-five years ago, the program is giving households in Greater Minnesota’s school districts options to make choices that fit with the opportunities and experiences parents desire for their children and to meet the demands of their lifestyles. And as was also intended, school districts are adapting, finding ways to improve their quality of education and promote themselves to compete with other districts.

    Over the years, interesting trends have appeared in Greater Minnesota’s districts. Some of them are welcome, such as the trend in one-third of small rural districts gain open enrollment students, thereby stabilizing what would have been declining enrollment numbers. On the other hand, one-third of rural districts are still seeing an annual net loss in enrollment due to open enrollment.

    In regional center school districts, nearly half are losing students consistently to open enrollment, although enough families appear to be moving into the districts fast enough to sustain total enrollment. 

    And for all districts, open enrollment is becoming part of the discussion when it comes time to vote on school referendums.

    Open enrollment as a program hasn’t had a comprehensive review since it started, but the patterns emerging suggest that it perhaps should. As households continue to become more mobile and selective, these open enrollment patterns we’re seeing now will likely continue and their impacts intensify.

    The number of open enrollments have increased in the past 10 years. This impacts how districts plan their programming, busing, and finances. Many districts are rethinking strategies to take advantage of those open enrolling into their districts or to keep students from leaving their districts. . . .

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