Unintended consequences – the problem with open enrollment and Chapter 220

First, this is an old subject. The VoteNoApril3 group first proposed that Elmbrook’s policies for non-resident students were a problem in Spring of 2007. The issue was further articulated in this position held by many of the group.

Here’s part of a post I made in June 2007 after the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled on race as a determining factor in school enrollment:

SCOTUS decision and Chapter 220
Friday, Jun 29 2007, 05:32 PM

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is stop discriminating on the basis of race,” [Chief Justice John] Roberts said in his opinion.

Transferring students based on race is front and center across the nation this week. Who knew a group of grousers could be so cutting edge when asking the district to consider the numbers before committing to new high school facility plans. This chart from the MJS shows just how much of the Ch. 220 pie Elmbrook has on their face. Only Wauwatosa imports more students.

Finally, I think the SCOTUS decision will accelerate the non-resident student discussion prior to the next referendum. The board is forced, because of the decision, to rewrite policies. There will be considerable demand to do it well the first time, incorporating many of the growing concerns among taxpayers in the district. I think it’s fair to say that Elmbrook should be allowed to import as many students as it exports, which is about 69 if I remember correctly. This number could dwindle, though, if the magnet schools we export to are no longer able to accept them.

There’s always the chance that someone will sue Elmbrook saying that importing students is crowding the high schools. Now they’d have the added argument that non-resident decisions are based on race.

From a purely philosophical angle, I’ve never liked the idea of jumping district lines. If the brightest are heading to suburban schools, what incentive is there to increase the effectiveness of MPS as a district? Would the MPS district outlook improve if talent were required to stay within a district of residence? Would caring parents refocus their efforts on neighborhood schools? It’s something to think about.

Last Sunday the MJS reworked the story and provided this graphic for both open enrollment and Chapter 220. I think it’s very important to note that while a property rich school district like Elmbrook makes about $5 million a year on non-resident students through these two laws, it costs Milwaukee Public Schools more than $14 million. State taxpayers are repeatedly expected to shore up the MPS district’s budget.

Anyone want to help me nail down this subject once and for all? We need to know absolutely where the economic equilibrium is for Elmbrook, especially in light of Elmbrook’s repeated attempts for expanded high school facilities.


  1. Shawn Matson says:

    All you need to know is that it’s away to get around spending caps while bankrupting MPS. Killing two birds with one stone!