Open Enrollment Benefits the District
By Superintendent Wayne Weber
Our count is in! Each year, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) bases the aid we get, in part, to the number of students we have present in our schools on the third Friday in September. There’s a little bit more to the process, but for the most part, who is sitting in those seats on that day have a big impact on our funding. Those students sitting in those seats are from families living in the district and, increasingly, from families living in neighboring districts. The number of students open enrolling to our district has been increasing steadily for many years.
I am often asked what the impact of open enrollment is on the Rosendale-Brandon School District. People want to know if it costs us more to educate those students than what we get from the state in aid. Others want to know how we make out on students leaving our district versus those choosing us. That is data administration and the School Board analyzes on a regular basis.
Open enrollment became law in 1997 when Wisconsin Act 27 created the first statewide interdistrict open enrollment program in Wisconsin. Beginning in the 1998-99 school year, students in grades kindergarten (including 4-year-old kindergarten) to 12 could apply to attend any public school district in the state. Parents could apply for children to attend prekindergarten, early childhood education and school-operated day care only if the child’s resident school district offered the same type of program and if the child was eligible for the program. There have been many changes to the program over the past 20 years, but these basic guidelines remain the same.
Over that time, our district has seen the number of students choosing to leave hold steady at between 40 and 50 students, while the number choosing to enter our district has grown steadily. This year alone, 185 students have open enrolled to Rosendale-Brandon while 40 resident students have chosen to go elsewhere. Of those 40 going elsewhere, I consider only 10 of them to be “true” open enrolled students leaving the District. That means those 10 actually attended our district and then decided to leave. The other 30 have never set foot in our schools as students. Factors such as parent job locations, daycare locations, etc. have an impact on those students attending other districts. Once students attend the Rosendale-Brandon School District, they tend to stay.
Doing the math, one can see we have a net gain of 145 students via open enrollment spread out from 4K through 12th grade. As our resident enrollment slowly declines, the gain of nonresident students is most welcome. This year, we will pay other districts $271,622 to educate our students leaving while other districts will pay us $1,387,481 to educate their students. That’s an additional $1.1 million dollars.
School funding and the formulas used to determine it are often confusing, but in this instance, it is easy to see we are standing strong. Feel free to contact me if you would like more information on open enrollment and it’s impact on the district.