The Open Enrollment Act Exposed

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The Open Enrollment Act is listed under Alec's Education Task Force and was included in the 1995 ALEC Sourcebook of American State Legislation. An updated version of this legislation is available on, approved by the Board of Directors on January 7, 2011. Any language removed from the original version is indicated with strikethrough text and additions are given in bold. (Accessed on 9/23/2015).

CMD's Bill Summary

This "model" legislation would allow a student to apply to attend any school in the state, even outside of the district in which his or her family resides. It would also require the government to pay for the costs of transporting students to any schools within his or her own district even if it is not the nearest school. The "open enrollment" program was an early alternative to private voucher programs and is now available in many states.

ALEC Bill Text


The Open Enrollment Act stipulates that a student may, with the assistance of the state, attend any public school in the state. The legislation allows the parents of the student to apply for attendance in any nonresident school. either within or outside the district of residence. The nonresident school district would advise the parent within an established a reasonable time whether if the application was accepted or rejected. The nonresident school district would be obligated to adopt standards for consideration of such applications. Acceptance or rejection could not be based on previous academic achievement, athletic activities, physical conditions, proficiency in the English language, gender, national origin or race, unless necessary to ensure compliance with a desegregation plan. No school district can be obligated to change existing school structures or program guidelines. No school can reject an application except for lack of space, existing eligibility criteria, desegregation plan requirements, expulsion record or late enrollment.

Provisions are made for transportation within the nonresident district and, under some circumstances, within the resident district. State aid follows the transferring student from the resident to the nonresident district. State funds are thus used to facilitate the expansion of educational choice available to the student and the parent. School districts shall be required to post selected information on their websites concerning schools and the open enrollment process to facilitate informed decisions by parents. Except under certain conditions, students accepted through the open enrollment process are entitled to remain enrolled in the school of choice through the entire school year.

Model Legislation

Section 1. {Purpose.}

The Purpose of this Act is to improve educational achievement and to enhance the opportunity for parental choice in education by providing additional options to pupils in the state to enroll in public schools in school districts and educational programs throughout the state without regard to pupil residence.

Section 2. {Establishment.}

The state educational agency shall establish an enrollment options program to enable pupils residing in the state to attend public schools in school districts other than the ones in which they reside. any public school or program within the district of residence, or any school or program in a nonresident district within the state without requiring nonresident pupils to pay tuition.[i]

Section 3. {Application procedures.}

(A) The parent or legal guardian of a pupil wishing to attend a school in a nonresident school district nonresident school or program, either within or outside the district of residence, shall submit an application to the nonresident district. school of choice.[ii]

(B) The parent or legal guardian shall submit the application for a particular school year at a time set and on a form provided by the state educational agency. [iii] The parent may request a particular school.

(C) Upon agreement of the resident and nonresident districts, the deadlines in Subsection (B) may be waived. [iv]

Section 4. {Desegregation plan(s).}

A school district that has a desegregation plan approved by the State educational agency, by a court, or by the United States Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, may, in accordance with regulations of the state educational agency, limit the number of pupils who transfer into (or out of) the district under this Act if necessary to ensure compliance with the plan.

Section 5. {Basis for decision.}

(A) A school district shall adopt specific, written standards for acceptance and rejection of applications under this Act. Standards may include consideration of the capacity of a program, class, grade level, or school building. Subject to Subsection (B), standards may not include consideration of a pupil's previous academic achievement, physical condition, proficiency in the English language, sex, national origin, or race, except where necessary in accordance with Section 4. In implementing the provisions of this Act, no school district shall be required to:

(1) Make alterations in the structure of a requested school or to make alterations to the arrangement or function of rooms within a requested school; or
(2) Establish and offer any particular program in a school if such program is not currently offered in such school; or
(3) Alter or waive any established eligibility criteria for participation in a particular program, including age requirements, course prerequisites, and required levels of performance; or
(4) Enroll any student pursuant to this article in any program or school after [annual enrollment count date].[v]

(B) In considering an application under this Act, a nonresident school district may apply its usual requirements for admission to a magnet school or a program designed to serve the gifted and talented. Any school district may deny any of its resident pupils or any nonresident pupils from other school districts within the state permission to enroll in particular programs or schools only for any of the following reasons:

(1) Lack of space or capacity within a particular program or school requested, in which case, priority shall be given to resident students applying for admission to such program or school.
(2) The school requested does not offer appropriate programs or is not structured or equipped with the necessary facilities to meet special needs of the pupil or does not offer a particular program requested.
(3) The pupil does not meet the established eligibility criteria for participation in a particular program, including age requirements, course prerequisites, and required levels of performance.
(4) A desegregation plan is in effect for the school district, and such denial is necessary in order to enable compliance with such desegregation plan.
(5) The student has been expelled, or is in the process of being expelled, for the reasons specified in [STATUTE CITE][vi]

Section 6. {Nonresident district procedures.} Section 6. {Notification.}

Within 60 days of receiving an application under Section 3, a nonresident district shall notify the applicant parent and the resident district in writing whether the application has been accepted or rejected. If an application is rejected, the district shall state in the notification the reason(s) for its rejection.

In implementing the provisions of this Act, a school district shall adopt a policy requiring notification of accepted applicants within a reasonable amount of time of the application being submitted.

Section 7. {Transportation.} {Interdistrict transportation.}

If requested by the parent of a pupil participating in the program under this Act, the nonresident district shall provide transportation within that district. The parent shall be responsible for transporting the child without reimbursement to and from a point on a regular bus route of the receiving district.

(A) If requested by the parent of a pupil participating in the program under this Act, the nonresident district shall provide transportation within that district. The state educational agency shall reimburse the nonresident district for the costs of this transportation.

(B) A resident district shall reimburse the parent for the costs of transportation from the pupil's residence to the border of the nonresident district if the pupil is from a family whose income is at or below the poverty level as determined by the regulations of the state educational agency. The state educational agency shall reimburse the resident district for the costs of this transportation.

Section 8. {Graduation.}

A district serving a nonresident pupil under this Act shall accept credits toward graduation that were awarded to that pupil by another district and shall graduate a nonresident pupil if the pupil meets the nonresident district's own graduation requirements.

Section 9. {Information.}

In order to enable a parent to make an informed decision about enrollment options under this Act, each school district shall make available information about the district, its schools, programs, policies, and procedures. The state educational agency shall promulgate regulations regarding the information that a district must make available, including objective data on individual school achievement levels and (in the case of secondary schools) drop-out and graduation rates. that operates a website shall make open enrollment information as easily available to parents as possible by including the following information on the school district’s website:

(A) One or more web pages that summarize school district open enrollment policies and procedures for interdistrict and intradistrict open enrollment into district schools;

(B) Information concerning enrollment into district’s charter and magnet schools, if different than district schools;

(C) Information concerning the eligibility of a student to participate in school activities if the student has transferred from one school to another school, either within the school district or within another school district;[vii]

(D) Information concerning the open enrollment application process, including how and where to obtain an application and when and how notification of acceptance occurs;

(E) Information concerning the student selection process;

(F) Information concerning open enrollment timelines, including how long an enrollment shall remain valid;

(G) Contact information for one or more individuals employed by the school district who are responsible for answering questions from parents concerning the open enrollment process; and

(H) A tab or link on the home page of the school district website that links viewers to open enrollment information, is clearly labeled with language that includes the words “open enrollment” or “school choice,” and is available at all times of the year.

Section 10. {State aid.}{Continuing enrollment.}

The State educational agency shall reallocate state education aid between the resident and the nonresident district, as follows:

(A) Any state aid that is now allocated on a per-pupil basis shall be allocated to the district which a pupil actually attends.

(B) For each type of state aid not now allocated on a per-pupil basis, the state educational agency shall review the average effects of a single pupil's transfer on the costs which that type of aid is meant to defray for both the resident and the nonresident district. After such review, the state educational agency shall promulgate a formula that results in an equitable allocation to both districts.

(A) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (B) of this section, any pupil who enrolls in a nonresident school or program pursuant to this article may remain enrolled in that school or program through the end of the school year.

(B) This section shall not apply if:

(1) The nonresident pupil is expelled pursuant to statute from the school or program;
(2) The nonresident pupil is excluded from the school or program for any of the reasons described in paragraphs (1) to (4) of subsection (A) of Section 5.

Section 11. {Definitions.}

As used in this Act:

(A) The term "school" means a school that is operated or authorized by a public school district or other recognized educational agency and that provides elementary or secondary education in accordance with state law.

(B) "Parent" means the natural or adoptive parent or legal guardian of a dependent child.

Section 12. {Severability clause.}

Section 13. {Repealer clause.}

Section 14. {Effective date.}

ALEC's Sourcebook of American State Legislation 1995


[i] States with stronger “local control” may designate the authority to a school district or local education agency.

[ii] Preferably, the application should be made at the school level to give students and parents greater access to their preferred educational option. In some states, however, this process may function better at the district level.

[iii] See Note 2. Alternate language may grant the authority to establish the deadline and form to “the resident or nonresident district of choice.” But creating a single standard time frame at the state level makes navigating open enrollment simpler for parents.

[iv] See Note 4. If this authority is granted at the state level rather than the school level, subsection 3 should be eliminated to prevent the sending district from exercising undue power to prevent the free exercise of choice.

[v] States that provide funding based on average daily attendance or membership may choose a date or eliminate this point under Subsection A.

[vi] Place to cite existing statutes that define causes for expulsion based on ongoing habitually disruptive behavior, various criminal offenses or other activities deemed harmful to the welfare of other students or the effective implementation of the education program.

[vii] In some states, open enrollment without a bona fide family move affects a student’s ability to participate in interscholastic athletics and other competitive activities.

Approved by the ALEC Board of Directors, January 7, 2011.