Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Frustrating day for the expansion of open enrollment

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The state Assembly voted Tuesday night to amend the changes to open enrollment for schools previously passed by the state Senate.

The Senate version expands the open enrollment period for three months each spring, and gives parents maximum flexibility year round to enroll in a new public school as long as the receiving district has room and agrees. 

The State Assembly amendments empower the ‘home’ or ‘sending’ district to veto a request during the nine months outside the proposed open enrollment period.

While even the Assembly version is an improvement to the current law’s excessively restrictive, three-week open enrollment window, the nine-month “veto power” is not only inappropriate but unacceptable. School employees should not have the power to veto a family’s well thought out decision.

If a change in school is needed, parents should not have to plead with their home district to release their child. Sometimes they may have other students remaining in district and do not want to jeopardize their relationship with the attendance boundary school.

Under the Assembly vision, parents will have to beg school officials who have failed their child for permission to let the child go and learn in a public school that has accepted their request for immediate admission.

Their seat is waiting. Parents should not have to beg.

If the parents recognize that a school system is failing their child, there is no reason the failing school system should be allowed to hold that child hostage. This should have been an easy call for Assembly Republicans to make. Instead, they screwed up an opportunity to be on the side of education reform and parents.

This reminds of what former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said about the effect of domestic politics on foreign policy. He said there was always someone in the room who would say you couldn’t do something because you would upset the people who would never vote for you in the first place.

In this case, who was appeased by what the Assembly Republicans did? School bureaucrats and teachers unions?

By the way, if State Representative Steve Kestell, chairman of the education committee, has no interest in reforming education, perhaps leadership should find him another committee to run.

* correction: originally the post indicated the Assembly acted Wednesday. It actually acted Tuesday night.
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