(The Center Square) – Ohio falls short in creating competition between public schools and allowing students to find the best schools that work for them, according to a recent report.
The Reason Foundation examined each state’s open enrollment policies, evaluating them based on best practices. The report said 73% of parents support open enrollment for public schools.
The report called most state laws weak, ineffective or limited to specific student groups and put Ohio in that category.
Reason’s best practices include statewide cross-district open enrollment, statewide within-district open enrollment, transparent reporting by the state education agency, transparent district reporting and giving free access to all public schools to all children.
“Arizona hosts a robust array of school choice options in addition to open enrollment, showing that school districts can successfully compete in a robust education marketplace. This illustrates that school choice policies, such as open enrollment, are not a death knell for traditional public schools,” according to the report.
Ohio scored 1 out of 5 in the evaluation, only allowing open enrollment within a district when seats are available. It does not mandate cross-district open enrollment, state reporting, free public schools to all students or transparent district reporting, according to the report.
“Unfortunately, Ohio’s open enrollment laws are weak overall. While Ohio law lets students transfer to any school inside their school district that has open seats, students cannot always transfer to schools outside their school district even if space is available,” Jude Schwalbach, the report author, told The Center Square.
In Ohio, cross-district open enrollment is voluntary. Also, according to Schwalbach, districts that opt out of open enrollment can charge tuition to transfer students. She pointed to the Orange City School District, near Cleveland, which charges more than $25,000 per year for tuition.
Schwalbach also said many districts surrounding the state’s eight major cities refuse to participate in open enrollment, leaving many inner city and nearby rural students without an option, even if seats are available.
“Ohio only scores one out of five on Reason’s open enrollment best practices,” Schwalback said. “However, policymakers could significantly improve Ohio’s open enrollment law by making the cross-district open enrollment policy statewide, so students can fill all available seats in any school district free of charge.”
Overall, the report said six states – Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma and Utah – have implemented four of the five best practices. At the same time, 34 states have implemented one or none.