Study gives Illinois poor grade for public school open enrollment, transfer policies



(The Center Square) – Illinois is receiving poor marks in a new study that looks at school open enrollment and transfer policies.

Open enrollment lets students transfer from assigned schools to any public school with available seats, but the Reason Foundation study finds most states’ open enrollment policies are lacking.

Illinois was one of 19 states that scored a zero out of five categories on the best practices of open enrollment laws.

The report said the best practices include banning public schools from charging tuition, allowing within-district and cross-district open enrollment and requiring transparency reporting at the district and state level so parents can identify public schools with available seats and districts cannot prevent transfers for unjust reasons.

Illinois school districts can charge tuition fees for cross-district transfers.

Jude Schwalbach, education policy analyst at Reason Foundation and author of the study, said sometimes a student wants to transfer because another school is a better fit, or there may be practical reasons.

“The school is on the way to their parents’ job where their residentially assigned one is in the opposite direction,” Schwalbach said. “We also see students transfer just because maybe they get along better with teachers at a different school or the learning style or programming is better.”

Schwalbach adds that school districts responded to competition caused by cross-district open enrollment policies. School districts that lost students to open enrollment initially improved on state tests soon afterward.

A 2023 Becker-Friedman Institute report about Los Angeles Unified School District’s within-district open enrollment option found that the program had positive effects on student achievement and college enrollment. The authors argued that the competition between schools encouraged them to improve.

Many states with no open enrollment policies frown upon getting around the rules. The report found that 24 states criminalize address-sharing, which is the practice where parents falsify their address to gain access to a public school other than their assigned one.



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