Committee passes bill requiring school districts create open enrollment policies

Committee passes bill requiring school districts create open enrollment policies
File Image: Alabama Statehouse

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A Senate committee passed a bill requiring K-12 school districts to create a policy dealing with students who want to enroll in a school from outside the district.

The bill passed 7-3 out of the Senate Education Policy Committee Tuesday morning. Bill sponsor Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said parents want the choice to move their child to another district.

“There’s not gonna be a mass exodus of people leaving and going to Mountain Brook or the Mobile system,” Marsh said. “It gives some parents, not all, but some parents an option they’ve never had in the past, at least the option to go to that adjoining system.”

The students transferring would need to pay a fee specified by the school district, according to the sponsor. Marsh also said that some districts could decide not to require a fee.

The bill would require districts come up with a plan to allow open enrollment. Marsh said there are exceptions. For example, school districts don’t have to accept new students if there is lack of space or if the students don’t meet certain requirements.

Marsh said 47 states have an open enrollment policy.

“It’s asking all school districts in the state to have an open enrollment policy, whatever that may be,” he said. “Their policy could very well be we have no open enrollment that we just don’t have the capacity due to growth.”

One Democratic lawmaker said some families could not pay that fee to move districts.

“There will be kids who need to get into better schools who won’t be able, whose parents won’t be able to afford it,” said Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile.

Groups representing school boards and superintendents spoke against the bill at the committee. They said the bill runs into legal problems since it outlines that a district can deny enrollment if it does not have the facilities for a special needs student.

The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

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