Sharing Classes for the Kids
Open enrollment—a policy that allows students to transfer to any school of their choice in the state—has been gaining momentum nationwide. While Missouri decided to ride the bench this session, numerous states expanded opportunities to help families find the best fit.
The nonprofit yes. every. kid. released a report that discusses how allowing non-residential students (those outside the district) access to individual classes and extracurriculars could effectively complement open enrollment. Whereas open enrollment focuses on full-time transfers, this complementary policy would allow students to remain in their school and enroll part-time in individual classes—maximizing flexibility. According to the report, eight states* allow students to enroll in classes outside of their current school. In these states, students in a smaller rural district could enroll in physics, AP calculus, or even a music program in another district if their school does not have these classes or programs available. If open enrollment finally gets its long-needed day in Missouri, this policy could create additional opportunities for families across the state.
First, how could this benefit students?
Well, the answer is pretty obvious—more classes and more opportunities to help every kid in our state!
Second, why would a school with no physics program want its own students to participate?
The number one reason is that districts should care about their students. Competition can be cooperative, and districts should all be on the same team to best educate the students of Missouri. I chose physics as my example subject because there is a legitimate shortage of qualified physics teachers. These sending districts should want every student in their district to succeed, and many simply cannot provide classes in valuable subjects. Additionally, allowing your students to participate would lower their incentive to leave. If Johnny wants to study physics in college, but your district does not have it, he may be forced to leave your district by moving or enrolling in a private school.
Third, why would a receiving school share its resources?
The freeloading problem goes like this: “This policy would incentivize bad schools to not expand or offer new programs because they can simply mooch off our resources (and tax levies).” In Arizona, one of the states that employs this policy, part-time students (those which enroll in individual classes at different schools) are funded by the state at one fourth, one half, or three fourths of a full-time student—depending on how many classes they are taking. Therefore, state funding follows the student. Missouri does not have backpack funding like Arizona does (which we need), but a similar policy could be implemented to compensate receiving districts. Additionally, if you properly paired this policy with open enrollment, these classes could attract students. It would go both ways, as many students would stay in their home district and take individual courses elsewhere so they would not have to transfer away from their friends, sports teams, or other extracurriculars.
Receiving districts should care about all the students in our state trying to receive the best education they can. I can understand why one might take issue with another district benefitting from your district’s resources, but the most important thing is doing what works best for students. One may not think it is “fair,” but is it “fair” that a student cannot learn physics just because they live within arbitrary boundaries? Petty jealousies over dollars and cents should not stand in the way of opportunities for children across the state.
*Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Utah, and Wisconsin (all these states have open enrollment)