Open Enrollment Could Ease Pressure on Districts
One objection to open enrollment is that districts would have trouble accommodating changing numbers of students. I explained in this post why open enrollment needn’t hamper districts’ planning; one reason is that districts could limit the number of additional students they’d accept. In my argument that open enrollment wouldn’t do any harm, I neglected to point out that open enrollment could actually make planning easier for some districts. In particular, districts like Ladue that are experiencing enrollment booms and space shortages would benefit from a policy that allows students to transfer out.
As more people move into the Ladue district, class sizes go up and its schools have to scramble to find space. Some of that enrollment growth is inevitable, because Ladue has a good reputation. But the problem could be mitigated if students were able to choose schools in neighboring districts. Not every family that moves into Ladue does so for education; some choose a house in Ladue for other reasons, and would prefer a school that’s less crowded. Those people wouldn’t mind transferring their children to nearby districts. Other parents originally moved in for the district’s academics, but after class sizes reached a certain point, they no longer thought it was worthwhile to stay. They would also choose to transfer under open enrollment.
Under the current system, people with the preferences I just described can’t send their children to a different school unless they sell their houses and move. That’s a time-consuming process, and many would consider it a last resort in today’s real estate market. So, people stay put and keep their kids in the district, contributing to the crowding problem.
This is not to say that if Missouri institutes open enrollment, everyone would flee Ladue. Rather, some families that care about class sizes would send their children to other districts — perhaps just for a few years, while Ladue acquires more space. Open enrollment would act as a safety valve so that enrollment doesn’t increase faster than Ladue can open new classrooms.