Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Open Enrollment in Colorado

Apparently, this week was National School Choice Week. In Colorado, this was celebrated and promoted in Castle Rock with the "Restoring American Exceptionalism" event put on by Hugh Hewitt and featuring consultant Dick Morris.

Reports from the event revealed the presentations to be a not remotely subtle attack on teacher's unions and public education in general. That's not surprising considering the location. Castle Rock is in Douglas County, one of the most affluent and conservative parts of the country, as well as the location of school board approved private school voucher program that was halted at the start of this year by the courts. Strangely, the event was introduced as "not a political evening" because it was simply about parents being able to make the best choice for their kids.

Well, clearly, a call to weaken teacher associations and provide vouchers to allocate public funds to private religious schools is, in fact, a political evening. But that's OK. School choice is an issue that is timely and important and must be resolved in a prudent and effective manner. And that process is clearly in place in Colorado.

The prudent answer is, obviously, open enrollment policies as a state law.

In Colorado, a student is allowed to enroll in any school he wants as long as seats are available. This condition has been key in the rise of charter schools in the state, and made it a pioneer in charter and magnet education. The caveats are that the school must be "open," as in not at capacity for seating and staff, and if the school is outside the kid's "home school" he is responsible for transportation. There are some hurdles, bussing being a big one. In urban areas, students have a lot of access to public transportation. In rural areas, not so much. And, of course, Colorado's budget is strained and public transportation is taking a hit.

Additionally, some of the top schools are "closed," meaning their neighborhood constituents already take up the seats. My school - Cherry Creek High School - is one of the top schools in the state, and it's located in a rather affluent area. However, at 3600 kids, it's at capacity, and students are not allowed to "choice in." That's a condition that is troubling for some.

Ultimately, though, open enrollment is the perfect compromise solution for school choice advocates and public school defenders. It allows for freedom while maintaining a core of neighborhood schools and seeking to improve them. My long-standing opinion of education reform is that our policies should be "whatever works."

And open enrollment works.

3 comments:

Darren said...

School choice shouldn't be a left/right issue. It should be a right/wrong issue, with people favoring school choice being right.

Walt S. said...

Go to:
http://teachersdontsuck.blogspot.com/
to see some of the real skinny on teaching. A profession being reduced to factory worker status.

Elsa said...

I agree school choice shouldn't be a left/right issue; but what works for the community. I look forward to education not being political.