Open enrollment policies give choices to parents, but it’s hard to get data

Amidst all the hoopla about school vouchers in the next legislative session, a recent article in the Texas Tribune points out that there are other forms of school choice already available to parents:

In Texas, school boards can eliminate the geographical boundaries typically used to determine which campuses their students attend. They can also open their doors to students who do not live within the borders of their district. It is unclear how many districts have moved to such policies because neither the Texas Education Agency nor the Texas Association of School Boards tracks those figures.

Something as fundamental as providing that kind of information — or information about the application processes or lottery systems for a district’s charter and magnet schools — can go a long way toward helping parents know what their options are, [Russ] Whitehurst said.

“It’s not a marketplace if parents can’t really shop and compare and make a rational choice,” he said.

“Some Texas Districts Pursuing School Choice Locally”, Morgan Smith, Texas Tribune, December 14, 2012. (Russ Whitehurst is the co-author of “The Education Choice and Competition Index”, an interactive publication from the Brookings Institute.)

Austin-area dad Matt Prewett founded the Texas Parents Union because he was frustrated with the lack of information about open enrollment programs:

“It’s not practical for the average parent who is interested in learning more about public school choice to have to look up the policies of 1,200 individual school districts,” said Prewett, adding, “If we really are interested in choice, if we really think that is important to improving education in Texas, we need to spend some resources in making that information available.”

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