NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Open Enrollment Spreads

May 17, 1997

Some states and communities have enacted open enrollments laws which allow parents to send their children to any public school in the state. Others have sent parents to jail for crossing district boundary lines.

  • More than a dozen states have open enrollment laws, with the state's share of the education dollar -- and sometimes even the local share -- accompanying students into whatever district they enter.
  • But a Cleveland mother went to jail and a Queens couple were charged with criminal fraud for sending their children to superior suburban schools in neighboring school districts.
  • In Illinois, "illegal school registration" is now a misdemeanor punishable by fines, jail and reimbursement of the unpaid "tuition."
  • Experts say that, on average, states pay half the cost of a public school education, and local communities pay most of the rest.

Minnesota is reported to have led the way on open enrollments, with Arkansas and Colorado among those states following -- although such policies are typically limited by how much space is available and, sometimes, court desegregation orders.

Source: Chester E. Finn Jr., "Cheating the Child to Save the 'System,'" New York Times, May 17, 1997.


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