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California Commission Backs Open Enrollment

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California students should have the opportunity to enroll in schools outside their neighborhoods, including schools near a parent's work site, a state commission has recommended to the legislature.

Allowing students to attend schools near their parents' place of employment is particularly important when the selected school offers before- and after-school programs, concluded the 15-member California Commission on School Governance and Management, which was authorized under the state's 1983 education-reform law. "This could help to strengthen parent/child/teacher relationships."

The panel also recommended that the legislature consider allowing open enrollment within communi-ties on a scale larger than just a neighborhood. "Children should not be locked in a single school site that will not or cannot improve itself in spite of significant opportunities to do so," it said.

The panel's open-enrollment suggestion, as well as a number of other recommendations, were criticized by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig, who served as an ex-officio member of the panel, and two other panel members.

"California is now embarked on an ambitious program of educational reform emanating from SB 813 and subsequent legislation," the dissenting members said. "As a result, there could not be a worse time to propose a radical restructuring and reorganization of our school districts."

The panel also recommended that:

Power, including authority to allocate funds, shift from school-district boards to individual school-site councils whose members could be elected by local voters.

The legislature consider statewide or regional teacher-salary schedules to avoid the "often divisive and debilitating processes" that now occur in collective bargaining.

The legislature place on the state ballot a constitutional amendment that would revoke a portion of Proposition 13, California's controversial property-tax-limitation measure, and that would allow local voters to approve or disapprove general-obligation bonds for school construction.--Michael Fallon

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