CPS Board members vote to approve open enrollment - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

CPS Board members vote to approve open enrollment

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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education voted 4-2 Monday evening to approve open enrollment for the upcoming school year.

According to The Ohio Department of Education's website, there are 430 districts across the state that allow for open enrollment by any student in the state, and 85 that allow for enrollment by students living in adjacent districts.

"It's really this part of the state that's kind of behind the times," Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan told FOX19.

Cincinnati Federation of Teachers President Julie Sellers told FOX19 earlier on Monday she was "shocked that they are taking the vote this evening when there hasn't been enough conversation publicly about it."

Sellers says she is not totally opposed to the idea, but was not convinced there has been enough research or discussion of the proposal.

She argues the focus should instead be on trying to recruit back those students from charter schools that the district has an obligation to educate. Sellers says there is a high mobility within Hamilton County between failing charter schools and public school education which has created a revolving door of enrollment in Cincinnati that makes it difficult to properly staff the schools.

Ronan argues open enrollment would help reduce mobility by allowing families who move to continue to retain their children in CPS schools.

Sellers believes open enrollment would necessitate more teachers, but with the budget shortfall she is concerned CPS will not be able to properly staff the schools. She worries overloaded classrooms would put an unfair burden on teachers.

She believes tuition should be given more consideration because it could generate more money without unfairly burdening the current area tax payers and students.

Ronan argues tuition brings with it the additional administration costs of accounting, sending out tuition bills, checking on enrollment, and verifying who lives in the district.

"We could redeploy those staff to do other things if we had an open enrollment policy," Ronan argued.

"I understand it's a dollar thing," CPS parent Amanda Drexelius acknowledged. "I do get that, but I don't know. I like my school the way it is."

Drexelius understands parents trying to get their kids into a good school.

"You want that. You want your school to be in demand," she said.

Open enrollment was not an option for her family, however, when they were looking at CPS schools.

"It was a big deal to buy a house because you wanted your kid to go to this school," she recalled.

Now that other families could send their kids for free she is worried it could affect the quality of the education she has come to expect from her kids' schools.

"You kind of don't want people from anywhere being able to drive their kids in when we've made the commitment to stay in this community," she explained.

CPS officials say students will only be allowed into empty spots once kids living in the district have registered.

"We would not be taking youngsters in if seats weren't available," Superintendent Mary Ronan explained.

Ronan says each seat filled brings in about $5,000 a year from the state.  Instead of losing two million a year like they have been as students leave for other open enrollment districts, Ronan says CPS is looking to enter the competition.

"This way we're hoping to generate some money because our district has some wonderful programs," Ronan said.

Ronan says currently out-of-district parents who wish for their kids to be enrolled in CPS schools must pay $6,600 annually.

"Some of our families are able to pay but quite honestly a lot of our families aren't," Ronan explained.

Additionally, Ronan says 120 faculty members have their kids in CPS schools. With open enrollment the district will be able to begin receiving state dollars for those students.

Ronan recognized concerns about the wording of the open enrollment policy that says CPS will not take in students with disabilities if they need a program the district does not already have. School officials clarified Monday that they will gladly welcome students with disabilities and that they do have most programs available. They say that wording was simply copied and pasted straight from the Ohio Revised Code.

"Certainly we would welcome students with disabilities," Ronan said. "We just took the legalese out of state law which I think confused people."

Ronan says families looking to take advantage of open enrollment can begin the process in May.

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