Why would the State Board of Education support policies that lead to school consolidation?
The State Board of Education recently adopted legislative priorities for the upcoming legislative session. One of the most concerning details, and a major shift for the State Board of Education, is support for open enrollment allowing students to attend the public school of their choice regardless of attendance boundaries.
The board also added support for raising the minimum teacher salary to $35,000 while studying alternatives to the traditional salary schedule, incentive pay, pay for performance, health benefit design, tenure and differential pay based on subject area and geography. Priorities include expanding early learning and promoting safe and healthy schools, success-ready students and workforce development changes.
State law allows districts to work together to allow for open enrollment, which is currently voluntary. If parents are not satisfied with the decision of the local school districts, they may appeal the decision to the Commissioner of Education.
A drastic change to this policy was introduced last session by Rep. Brad Pollitt and would allow K-12 students to attend a school in a non-resident district. The legislation HB1814 (Pollitt) created a parent public school choice fund which would reimburse parents for the costs of transportation of the student enrolled in a nonresident district and reimburse districts for certain special education costs. This legislation has again been filed for the upcoming legislative session. It is unclear if the State Board of Education will support this legislation.
In states where open enrollment has existed, including Iowa, there have been trends toward consolidation of rural schools. The sponsor of the legislation admitted during debate that school consolidation is a possible outcome from this new program.
MSTA opposes this legislation and the decision by the State Board to not fully support all school districts in providing a high-quality, free public education. MSTA Adopted Resolutions support each local school district developing a written policy for transfer and assignment of students within a district and to any other school district.
Further information regarding the threat to rural schools from open enrollment policies and the State Board of Education’s priorities will be available in the first MSTA Action on January 7.