Northwest Iowa — Open Enrollment is a process in which a student in one northwest Iowa school district may enroll into, and attend classes in, a school district other than the one in which they reside. This is most often done when the student is having some sort of problem in their home school district.
Now, the Iowa State Board of Education is discussing the rules for open enrollment and possible changes to allow a student who may not suffer what’s legally defined as bullying to still enroll at a new school. Under current rules, Open Enrollment Applications must be filed before a March 1st deadline each year. An Open Enrollment Application filed after the March 1st deadline can be approved, providing there is good cause, such as the student being bullied. If an Open Enrollment Application filed after the March 1st deadline is denied, there is an appeal process for the student.
Nicole Proesch is the Administrative Law Judge who hears the cases and advises the Board once an appeal makes it to the state level.
Proesch says when the Districts get the request form, if it is filed in time they move it on, if it is not, they deny it.
She says these students get overlooked if their situation doesn’t fall under the bullying law.
Proesch says schools boards sometimes have a hard time separating bad behavior to a student from bullying.
State Board member Mike May, of Spirit Lake, says he has been frustrated by open enrollment appeals where the student is treated badly, but there is not enough for the board to approve the open enrollment to another school.
He says it can be harder to define kids who fall in this group.
May says there’s frustration when cases do reach the state level as the board rules conflict with the local control given to school boards.
Board member Mary Ellen Miller, of Mason City, says it is a “manufactured problem” because of the March 1st open enrollment deadline. She says schools don’t want to let students open enroll to another district and lose the state funding they get for that student.
Board member Michael Bearden, of Gladbrook, says it is about money as there needs to be some deadline so districts know if students are leaving and can plan accordingly.
May says it is an issue the Board will continue to work on, and will likely have some sort of solution to discuss in a couple of months. He says the discussion will include the Iowa Association of School Boards and other groups. Proesch says they have had eight and nine requests for open enrollment the last two years. She says some of those could be medical related.