Missouri is falling behind its neighboring states in the race to give families control over their children’s education.
While we have made important improvements in recent years by fixing our virtual education program, creating a private school choice program, and ensuring equitable funding for charter school students, the state still lags behind its neighbors when it comes to the issue of public school choice policies like open enrollment.
Open enrollment is an important form of school choice that allows families to send their children to the public school of their choice, regardless of what district they live in. Currently, 46 states have some form of open enrollment policy, and close to 75 percent of parents nationwide support the idea of open enrollment.
Open enrollment offers Missouri families a wide range of benefits including:
Additionally, open enrollment in Missouri could help families escape failing schools, find school programs that fit their children’s specific needs and help students find refuge from bullying. It can also help school districts struggling with declining student populations fill seats and improve diversity within their classrooms. Open enrollment can also help eliminate the educational disparities created by previous “redlining” policies.
Currently, Missouri only allows open enrollment when a school district loses accreditation, like the transfer program that started when the Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts lost accreditation over a decade ago.
Six of Missouri’s eight neighboring states have better, more accessible open enrollment policies than we do, putting Missouri at a disadvantage when trying to recruit new businesses and families focused on quality education options.
There are two types of open enrollment used throughout the country: inter-district and intra-district.
Intra-district open enrollment allows a student’s family to choose any school within their resident school district to send their child to. This allows families to pick the best school for their child’s needs within their existing school district.
Inter-district open enrollment allows a student’s family to send their child to any school in their area, regardless of what school district the school is in or what district the family lives in. This provides a much larger range of school options, especially in more populated areas where there are many more districts in a geographic area.
Public opinion polls consistently show strong support for open enrollment, both intra- and inter-district programs.
A recent poll by EdChoice showed that three out of every four parents in the country supported the idea of inter-district open enrollment policies.
Open enrollment, if properly designed, would fill an important hole in Missouri’s school choice landscape, adding public school choice to the already thriving private school choice, public charter, and virtual education options that many families can currently access.
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