Minnesota Open-Enrollment Program Has Had Mixed Impact, Survey

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Says Minnesota's statewide open-enrollment program, one of the first in the nation to allow parents to enroll their children in public schools of their own choosing, is having a mixed impact on school districts, according to a new report.

The report, by the research department t program was still in the early stages of development. The program was not fully implemented until this year.

Even so, more than one-half of the superintendents surveyed said their districts already had been af- fected in some way by the program. But, for most of that group, the impact was mixed.

Twenty-eight percent of the superintendents in the Twin Cities metropolitan area and 16 percent of the superintendents in the rest of the state said open enrollment had both helped and hurt their districts.

Another 19 percent of the metro- politan-area superintendents and 3 percent of superintendents in greater Minnesota said their districts had accrued only benefits from the program. A smaller proportion--9 percent in the Twin Cities area and 16 percent in greater Minnesota--said the impact had only been harmful.

"I don't think it shows that an awful lot of school districts are being harmed by open enrollment," said State Representative Bob McEachern, who requested the study. "This bore out what I've been saying all along: open enrollment is just an- other option for parents and nothing more."

The superintendents said the greatest benefit of open enrollment was the increase in state aid that resulted when students transferred into their districts. They also said open enrollment had helped them improve and expand the curriculum, replace some disgruntled stu- dents with highly motivated ones, and inspire a greater willingness on the part of school boards to spend money on improved programs.

The survey also indicated, however, that class sizes had increased both in districts losing students and in those gaining pupils. Some of the districts with large numbers of students leaving had been forced to make staff cuts that resulted in larger class sizes.

Some of the negative effects of the program cited by the superintendents included: a loss of revenue, the departure of good students and student athletes, a lack of stability for planning, and reduced programs for remaining students.--D.V.

Vol. 10, Issue 23

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