Open enrollment: Schools' money goes with students

PERKINS TWP. Although the majority of area schools allow open enrollment, the verdict remains out on
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Although the majority of area schools allow open enrollment, the verdict remains out on whether it financially hurts other districts.

Based on the district's demographics, the state pays a school district between $1,500 and $5,500 for each student enrolled.

When it comes to open enrollment, the state money follows the student to the district he or she attends.

With the economy falling to its weakest point and Perkins Schools offering more than 200 openings, this could mean as many as 100 students each from the Margaretta, Huron and Sandusky districts could transfer -- adding up to a loss of more than $100,000 per district in state funding.

"The effect it will have will differ on a district-by-district basis," Ohio Department of Education spokesman Scott Blake said. "If any one district has been harmed or hurt, I don't know. Even if they're not educating those kids, they are still getting their local share of money per student -- just not the state share. That amount is transferred."

Blake said if a district allows open enrollment, most likely it will draw back just as many students as it's losing.

Margaretta superintendent Ed Kurt said that so far his district is attracting more students than it is losing.

"It just depends on the individual district," Blake said. "If they feel it's in their best interest, they'll adopt it. It's strictly a voluntary policy. It's not forced upon them."

Although most school districts in Erie and Huron counties have adopted the policy, districts such as Huron prefer to keep the doors open only to students residing in the city limits.

"It has always been the position of the board that if you wanted to send your child to Huron schools, then you need to move into the district and be part of the community and pay taxes like the rest of the parents in our district," superintendent Fred Fox said.

Fox said the Huron school district is on a "guarantee" for its share of state funding.

"That means the state is only funding about 20 percent of our budget," he said. "Regardless of the number of students that come to our district, we are guaranteed a certain amount. If that guarantee would change, the board may want to reconsider our position."

Is Fox worried he may lose students to other districts?

"At this point in time I have no way of knowing how many students will choose to enroll at Perkins," Fox said. "We have a few students that are enrolled at area schools via open enrollment -- less than 20 total. Our enrollment has stayed about 1,500 for several years, and that number fits our facilities and staffing. Most open enrollment policies that I have seen set limitations on numbers of students at certain grade levels to avoid hiring more staff and creating more expense. That number changes from year to year, and some students may be forced out depending on enrollment of local students."

Open enrollment at Perkins could also affect St. Mary Central Catholic School, where parents pay tuition for their children to attend, regardless of where they live.

"It's kind of a Catch-22," SCCS superintendent Judy Monaghan said. "The economy as well as fuel prices have impacted our families' budgets, making it harder for them to afford tuition. I feel we're pretty unique. We're not like a public school because our focus is on religion, and families send their students here for that incorporation into the curriculum."

Monaghan said overall, those who want to stay will stay, and those who want to go will go.

"It's really hard to say what will happen," she said. "I just don't know. I feel that those parents that really value having the religious aspect in their child's curriculum will find a way to stay."