Education and Workforce Development Secretary Hal Heiner, an appointee of Gov. Matt Bevin, is proposing that Kentucky “adopt a statewide policy which allows students to seamlessly attend schools in districts where they do not live when seats are available.”
A report from Heiner attached to the agenda for the Kentucky Board of Education meeting scheduled for Wednesday said that two principles support allowing inter-district transfer or open enrollment across Kentucky. First, parents should ultimately be the ones responsible for making decisions about where their children attend schools. Second, public school funding is for the purpose of educating students, and that funding should follow students to whatever public schools they attend, the report said.
The Kentucky School Boards Association News Service first reported on the proposal Friday, saying, “Gov. Matt Bevin’s point person on education issues is advocating that Kentucky end most residency-based school attendance requirements for students, allowing them — and their associated state and federal funding — to accompany them in transferring to schools of their choice.”
“My hope is that this will be a conversation starter for the board, that it would begin their consideration,” Heiner told the Herald-Leader on Friday. Many states, Heiner said, “have made it easier for families to choose the school that best match the interests and needs of their child. I’m hoping this will start that discussion.”
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No legislation for the proposal had been filed by Friday, Heiner said. “There’s no bill written and it is a short session.”
Bill Twyman, chairman of the Kentucky Board of Education, said Friday that he did not have details about the proposal beyond the report.
Heiner’s report said potentially, under his proposal, state and federal funding would follow the student as if the student moved while local funding would stay in the home district. This approach, the report said, would allow about 60 percent of typical tuition to follow the child to the receiving district with the remaining 40 percent staying in the student’s home district without the expense of educating the student.
Heiner’s report said it was “unfortunate” when Kentucky students miss opportunities to participate in innovative programs aligned with their personal goals “when seats are available in neighboring school districts.”
“Students in one Kentucky school district should never be prohibited from benefiting from innovative programs in neighboring districts, especially when parents are willing to provide transportation and an open seat is available,” Heiner’s report said. “It’s time for Kentucky to give consideration to this powerful tool available to parents in 19 other states.”
Currently in Kentucky, local school districts enter into voluntary inter-district enrollment agreements with other school districts allowing nonresident students to attend, the report said. Heiner’s report said that while that current framework allows for some students to benefit from programs in neighboring districts, an enhanced statewide policy would allow for more students to benefit academically.
In terms of athletics, “a straight forward solution would give the student a choice of playing at their home school or red-shirt for their first year at the out-of-district school,” the report said.
Heiner’s report said Kentucky can look to Michigan, where the receiving school district can limit the number of nonresident students it accepts in a grade, school or program. Districts are permitted to refuse students who have been suspended from another school within the past two years or expelled at any time. Parents are responsible for transportation, the report said.
Under Indiana law, the report said, parents can submit a written request to transfer outside of their home school district if parents believe a student’s goals can be better accommodated; the school from which the student would like to transfer is overcrowded and the school to which the student is requesting transfer is not, or the student has medical conditions that can be better accommodated at another school.