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One controversy currently swirled in the Iowa legislature is a proposal to provide public funding for Iowa public school students to attend a private school.
Various arguments against the proposal are based upon the negative impact such a proposal would have on state aid to public school districts if a sizable number of students took advantage of the ability to exit those districts.
At nearly $7,000 per pupil, even a moderate number of fewer students could wreak havoc on district budgets.
Even without a new law encouraging students to move to a private setting, however, current law allows students to move from one district to another if application guidelines are followed.
Open Enrollment (OE) is the process by which parents/guardians residing in an Iowa district may enroll their children into another Iowa school district under the terms and conditions of Iowa Code.
In these cases, the state aid follows the student to the receiving district.
The “certified enrollment” of a district defines how much state aid is available to that district.
Certified enrollment is calculated by combing the number of students attending school in a given district with the number of students open enrolling out of the district. (In certain cases, districts pay tuition to a different school district to provide services not offered in the home district. In many instances, these services relate to special needs. These students would be included in the certified enrollment totals.)
Once certified enrollment numbers are finalized, school districts then forward the amount in state per pupil aid (approximately $7,000) to the receiving district for each of the open enrolled-out and tuition-out students.
For example, Mount Ayr began the 20-21 school year with a base of 518.5 resident students attending school in Mount Ayr. (Fractional numbers result from the various weighting formulas used to determine state aid.)
Added to that number are the 57.9 students open enrolled or tuitioned out of the district to arrive at a certified enrollment of 576.4.
Once certified enrollments are finalized, Mount Ayr forwards roughly $400,000 to the various districts receiving those Mount Ayr students.
On other hand, 53 students open enrolled into the Mount Ayr district, with another seven students coming into the district via the tuition route.
As a result, Mount Ayr receives an amount more than $400,000 from other districts, reflecting the difference between the number of students going out of the district and the students coming into the district.
In Diagonal, the smallest public school district in the state, students lost and gained via open enrollment can have a significant impact on district budgets.
Fortunately for Diagonal’s bottom line, 38 students open enroll into the district while only 22 open enroll out, a positive difference of over $100,000.
Some districts are not as fortunate.
Hamburg, for example, has 81 students open enroll out versus only seven open enrolling in.
Riverside has 116 students open enrolling out with only 24 coming in.
Conversely, some districts thrive from their open enrollment numbers.
Sidney reports 43 students open enrolled out compared to 130 open enrolled in.
Clear Lake reports 58 out versus 245 coming in.
The big winner in the open enrollment sweepstakes is CAM – Cumberland, Anita, Massena.
According to Iowa Department of Education data, CAM reports 50 students open enrolling out of the district versus 928 coming in.
Remember, though, CAM is the host public district for Iowa Connections Academy, a privately-owned entirely online K-12 school. CAM’s share of any additional funding due to the increased enrollment remains unclear.
The chart BELOW/LEFT/RIGHT shows a comparison between the number of students open enrolling or tuitioning out of a district versus the number coming in among area school districts.
Open enrollment balance
Bedford 41.4 33.2
CAM 50.4 *928.2
Central Decatur 43.0 59.0
Chariton 75.1 23.0
Clarke 147.3 40.0
Corning 22.0 100.0
Creston 161.7 77.5
Diagonal 22.0 38.0
East Union 62.0 74.0
Nodaway Valley 53.1 25.0
Indianola 162.5 197.2
Interstate 35 117.5 99.3
Lamoni 23.2 44.0
Lenox 40.0 72.0
Martensdale-St. Marys 116.9 123.1
Mormon Trail 50.0 20.0
Mount Ayr 57.9 60.0
Murray 15.0 64.0
Orient-Macksburg 64.1 44.0
Southeast Warren 109.4 44.1
Wayne 24.02 64.9
Winterset 153.5 91.0
*includes Iowa Connections Academy