Open enrollment will allow students to enroll in any district

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Open enrollment in Kansas schools is essentially a done deal. Lawmakers added it as a provision to the Kansas Education Funding bill that awaits Gov. Laura Kelly’s signature.While the bill falls in line with education funding, and adequately funds schools per the Gannon ruling, the open enrollment provision means that if any public school has space, any student in the state of Kansas can attend that school. Advocates said it gives students the opportunity to go to a school that meets their needs. Opponents said resources for the idea are sorely lacking. “Schools are such a draw to the community in general,” said Jennifer Robinson, an Olathe mother.All three of her children – and a lot of her tax dollars – have gone to Olathe schools. Now, with the passage of the open enrollment provision, more kids can go to Olathe schools but their parents tax dollars won’t.”I can see benefits and I can see drawbacks to open enrollment,” Robinson said. “It sounds great – kids being able to go to school anywhere they want. But schools receive funding based on the number of schools that they have. They receive a certain amount of money per student.”Republican state Sen. Molly Baumgardner, who represents District 37 in Kansas (which includes Olathe, Blue Valley, and Spring Hill schools) told KMBC that state tax dollars will eventually pay for an out-of-district student to go to a different district.Baumgardner, the Senate Education Committee chair, said $17, 000 of state funding will follow the out-of-district student, starting the second year the child’s enrolled in the new district.“Change is always something that’s worrisome for folks,” Baumgardner said. By the 2023-24 school year, school districts will have to decide how many students each building can accommodate. If there are any remaining spaces, those could go to out-of-district students. If there are more out-of-district students than spaces, there will be a lottery system. Each student that is opting to come to a new district must provide their own transportation to do it, although Baumgardner said there is a chance those students could utilize bus routes that have open space on the bus.Many large and small school districts argued against open enrollment earlier this year.”We did this,” said Baumgardner, “because they (school districts) said they were opposed to it, but couldn’t give us specifics for what needed to be changed.”Within two hours, multiple school districts provided KMBC with their specific concerns on Monday.Democratic state Sen. Cindy Holscher, who represents the Olathe and Blue Valley districts, said, “Is there a better solution? Of course there is. That solution is adequately funding all of our schools, and equitably. So that the school that is in your own neighborhood, is a great school for you to attend.”Blue Valley, Olathe, Shawnee Mission, and the Kansas City, Kansas school districts have all spoken out against this, as has the local representative on the Kansas State Board of Education.”The School Choice measure, HB 2567, will hinder a school board’s ability to plan for the effective and efficient use of a limited amount of dollars needed to meet the needs of students and their families. “HB 2567, looks only at “open seats” in a building or grade level without taking into account the educational needs of the students who attend the school or looking at the potential educational needs of the incoming students,” said Edwin Birch, executive director of communications and marketing for Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools.David Smith, the Shawnee Mission School District’s chief communications officer, released a list of reasons the district is against the measure:SMSD does not support HB 2615 because the policy change does not appear to serve a public policy goal that is not already available. No Kansas school district or non-political organization asked for this policy change. SMSD, like many other districts, has an out-of-district transfer policy. Allows transfers once a year prior to the Sept. 20 court date and includes a building and grade level assessments each year that adds to the already-strained administrative responsibilities USDs are set by geography to build and support local community interests, taxes, and voting authority for all residents. Expanding a public policy allowing any student to attend wherever they want diminishes the connection a citizen has to the location they pay taxes and have a vote in locally elected school boards. This step may further erode community support for public schools. This policy change will allow families with children in special education to pick districts to serve their children and the receiving districts will be responsible for transportation and additional services. In fact, a USD may not know if a student incoming has an IEP. The state currently fails to cover excess special education costs, and that rate will continue to decline in districts where transfers chose to attend. Moreover, increased students with their state funding create an increase in local property taxes. Local option budgets are levied against state money and up to 33% of additional funds will increase property tax rates on local property owners, not on students who do not live in the district.The Olathe School District released the following statement:”Olathe Public Schools needs to be able to plan and prepare from year to year in order to best meet the needs of our almost 30,000 students, from adequate staffing to programming needs and more. The proposed bill would allow parents to enroll students throughout the year, which makes planning challenging. Additionally, because of this, a district may not receive the financial resources to ensure appropriate programs and resources are available to support learning outcomes for all students. We have a finite number of opportunities available for students, from places on athletic teams to participation in district activities and more. Our responsibility is to the students who reside within the boundaries of the Olathe Public Schools, and as such, we have to prioritize meeting their needs and preparing them for their future.”Michelle Dombrosky, a Kansas Board of Education member released the following statement:”This bill destroys representative government.- The authority to accept or not accept nonresident students is removed from local school districts.- Receiving schools receive the state funding for each transfer student.- Local taxpayers of receiving schools are encumbered with their local taxes supporting non-resident school district students. – Parents of nonresident students do not participate in school board or bond elections of the school district where their child attends.- Local school boards will not reflect the students of their resident area. – State school board members will not reflect the students of their resident area.”This bill moves toward the combining or dissolution of local school boards, eradicating local representative government. I think local representation is important. Your voice is stronger when it is closer to home. “If you don’t even live in the district of the school where you would be transferring, why would anyone bother voting for local school bonds, their own local BOE, or even their State Board representative? Who would be representing who?”

Open enrollment in Kansas schools is essentially a done deal. Lawmakers added it as a provision to the Kansas Education Funding bill that awaits Gov. Laura Kelly’s signature.

While the bill falls in line with education funding, and adequately funds schools per the Gannon ruling, the open enrollment provision means that if any public school has space, any student in the state of Kansas can attend that school.

Advocates said it gives students the opportunity to go to a school that meets their needs. Opponents said resources for the idea are sorely lacking.

“Schools are such a draw to the community in general,” said Jennifer Robinson, an Olathe mother.

All three of her children – and a lot of her tax dollars – have gone to Olathe schools. Now, with the passage of the open enrollment provision, more kids can go to Olathe schools but their parents tax dollars won’t.

“I can see benefits and I can see drawbacks to open enrollment,” Robinson said. “It sounds great – kids being able to go to school anywhere they want. But schools receive funding based on the number of schools that they have. They receive a certain amount of money per student.”

Republican state Sen. Molly Baumgardner, who represents District 37 in Kansas (which includes Olathe, Blue Valley, and Spring Hill schools) told KMBC that state tax dollars will eventually pay for an out-of-district student to go to a different district.

Baumgardner, the Senate Education Committee chair, said $17, 000 of state funding will follow the out-of-district student, starting the second year the child’s enrolled in the new district.

“Change is always something that’s worrisome for folks,” Baumgardner said.

By the 2023-24 school year, school districts will have to decide how many students each building can accommodate. If there are any remaining spaces, those could go to out-of-district students. If there are more out-of-district students than spaces, there will be a lottery system. Each student that is opting to come to a new district must provide their own transportation to do it, although Baumgardner said there is a chance those students could utilize bus routes that have open space on the bus.

Many large and small school districts argued against open enrollment earlier this year.

“We did this,” said Baumgardner, “because they (school districts) said they were opposed to it, but couldn’t give us specifics for what needed to be changed.”

Within two hours, multiple school districts provided KMBC with their specific concerns on Monday.

Democratic state Sen. Cindy Holscher, who represents the Olathe and Blue Valley districts, said, “Is there a better solution? Of course there is. That solution is adequately funding all of our schools, and equitably. So that the school that is in your own neighborhood, is a great school for you to attend.”

Blue Valley, Olathe, Shawnee Mission, and the Kansas City, Kansas school districts have all spoken out against this, as has the local representative on the Kansas State Board of Education.

“The School Choice measure, HB 2567, will hinder a school board’s ability to plan for the effective and efficient use of a limited amount of dollars needed to meet the needs of students and their families.

“HB 2567, looks only at “open seats” in a building or grade level without taking into account the educational needs of the students who attend the school or looking at the potential educational needs of the incoming students,” said Edwin Birch, executive director of communications and marketing for Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools.

David Smith, the Shawnee Mission School District’s chief communications officer, released a list of reasons the district is against the measure:

  • SMSD does not support HB 2615 because the policy change does not appear to serve a public policy goal that is not already available.
  • No Kansas school district or non-political organization asked for this policy change.
  • SMSD, like many other districts, has an out-of-district transfer policy.
  • Allows transfers once a year prior to the Sept. 20 court date and includes a building and grade level assessments each year that adds to the already-strained administrative responsibilities
  • USDs are set by geography to build and support local community interests, taxes, and voting authority for all residents. Expanding a public policy allowing any student to attend wherever they want diminishes the connection a citizen has to the location they pay taxes and have a vote in locally elected school boards. This step may further erode community support for public schools.
  • This policy change will allow families with children in special education to pick districts to serve their children and the receiving districts will be responsible for transportation and additional services. In fact, a USD may not know if a student incoming has an IEP. The state currently fails to cover excess special education costs, and that rate will continue to decline in districts where transfers chose to attend.
  • Moreover, increased students with their state funding create an increase in local property taxes. Local option budgets are levied against state money and up to 33% of additional funds will increase property tax rates on local property owners, not on students who do not live in the district.

The Olathe School District released the following statement:

“Olathe Public Schools needs to be able to plan and prepare from year to year in order to best meet the needs of our almost 30,000 students, from adequate staffing to programming needs and more. The proposed bill would allow parents to enroll students throughout the year, which makes planning challenging. Additionally, because of this, a district may not receive the financial resources to ensure appropriate programs and resources are available to support learning outcomes for all students. We have a finite number of opportunities available for students, from places on athletic teams to participation in district activities and more. Our responsibility is to the students who reside within the boundaries of the Olathe Public Schools, and as such, we have to prioritize meeting their needs and preparing them for their future.”

Michelle Dombrosky, a Kansas Board of Education member released the following statement:

“This bill destroys representative government.

– The authority to accept or not accept nonresident students is removed from local school districts.

– Receiving schools receive the state funding for each transfer student.

– Local taxpayers of receiving schools are encumbered with their local taxes supporting non-resident school district students.

Parents of nonresident students do not participate in school board or bond elections of the school district where their child attends.

– Local school boards will not reflect the students of their resident area.

– State school board members will not reflect the students of their resident area.

“This bill moves toward the combining or dissolution of local school boards, eradicating local representative government. I think local representation is important. Your voice is stronger when it is closer to home.

“If you don’t even live in the district of the school where you would be transferring, why would anyone bother voting for local school bonds, their own local BOE, or even their State Board representative? Who would be representing who?”



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