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What Is Open Enrollment?
School Open Enrollment –
what is it and how can parents take advantage of it?
The term “open enrollment” gets thrown around a lot in education conversations in Texas. But what exactly is open enrollment? The truth is open enrollment means different things, depending on the school district. Texas does not make it simple!
How Do Public School Districts Handle Open Enrollment?
Back in the good old days, public school districts set geographical boundaries for every school in their district, and you sent your child to a school based on your home address.
That was it.
Today, while those geographical borders still exist for public school districts, many districts have opted to become “open enrollment” districts. You can still send your child to the school based on your home location, but some districts allow you options for sending your child to another school. But wait! There are several variations to this!
The first thing to know is that not every school district in Texas has open enrollment policies, and for those that do, Texas requires every open enrollment district to grant approval before a child can change to another school outside their home geographical boundary. You cannot just show up to your preferred school on the first day. You must get approval from your school or district first.
Are there different types of open enrollment?
There are three types of Open Enrollment.
- Voluntary Intra-district Open Enrollment
- Mandatory Intra-district Open Enrollment
- Inter-District Open Enrollment
Voluntary Intra-District Open Enrollment
If you want your child to attend a different school in the SAME district, then you must understand that school districts can choose whether to allow your child to transfer or not.
Some districts only allow transfers to another school for specific reasons. For example, if a parent is employed at a school outside of their home geographic boundary, the district might allow the child to attend the same school as their parent.
Many voluntary open enrollment districts will list their guidelines for transfers on their website. Some districts will grant transfers if a parent feels their child is struggling academically or socially at one school, but some will not. Again, it is all based on the policies of the district. On the flipside…
Mandatory Intra-District Open Enrollment
Some school districts will allow you to send your child to another school within the district without a reason. The transfer must still be approved by the district, but you do not have to specify a reason for wanting to transfer your child.
While this type of open enrollment sounds great, one thing to be aware of, is that this policy does not include automatic acceptance to schools with admission requirements, such as magnet schools or specialized academies, which is why it is very important to check with your district for guidance.
Inter-District Open Enrollment
This type of open enrollment applies to you if you want to transfer your child to a school outside your current school district. Just like with the two Intra-district transfers explained earlier, a parent must request a transfer with the district they wish their child to attend and receive approval.
Note that if your child currently attends a school on the Texas Public Education Grant (PEG) list of poorly performing schools, you are automatically allowed to request a transfer.
Open Enrollment in Charter Schools
Open enrollment works a little differently with charter schools. Charter schools in Texas are another type of public school but pride themselves as being schools of choice. That means that anyone who wants to send their child to a charter school has the option to do so, regardless of geographical location.
Charter schools often use a lottery system, meaning that students must apply to attend, then the school conducts a random lottery from their applications to decide who will be offered a spot at the school. Because of the way their charter is written and approved by the state, charter schools can limit the number of students they accept.
However, Charter schools CANNOT choose who they accept. If you apply to a charter school and are selected in the lottery, your child will not be discriminated against and denied the opportunity to attend school based on academic ability or any other preferences. If this is your first time really hearing about charter schools, check out a few more Reasons to Consider a Charter School.
Uplift Education, the largest charter school network in the Dallas Fort Worth area, conducts its lottery every February. “While we wish we could serve all those who apply, we simply don’t have the space,” said Remy Washington, president of Uplift Education. “We do, however, serve the unique needs of every student within our network, including those with learning disabilities.”
While the idea of open enrollment might sound confusing, it is best to start with your district’s website, or a quick call to your district’s administration office to see if they are an open enrollment district. Parents should be aware that they always have a choice in their child’s education. To learn more about your choices and the different types of schools in Texas, check out our blog on School Choice in Texas.