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Just how 'open' will open enrollment prove to be?

The law here in Florida is fairly straightforward when it comes to the issue of public school students looking to transfer. Specifically, while transfers between schools located in a child's district are permitted, typically for the purpose of enrolling in magnet programs or career academies, those transfers involving students from outside county lines are generally not permitted.

As it turns out, this longstanding state of affairs is poised to come to an end starting in August and, by extension, the 2017-2018 school year, when a new open enrollment law takes effect.

What exactly is open enrollment?

Open enrollment essentially allows parents to enroll their children in any public school in the Sunshine State. First introduced by Minnesota back in 1988, it is currently in effect in 21 states, including neighboring Georgia.

Does this mean a child would theoretically be able to enroll in their public school of choice as soon as next summer?

Not exactly. The state's new open enrollment law dictates that parents would be able to enroll their children in any public school in the state provided that 1) the student is not under any expulsion/suspension order, 2) the parents provide transportation and 3) there is actually room at the school, such that no one who lives in the district will be displaced.

As for how any open spots will be filled, districts would post the information on their websites and hold a lottery.

The law also contains a provision enabling high school students who transfer (even mid-season) to gain immediate athletic eligibility provided that they don't end up playing the same sport at two different schools during the same year.

What's been the reaction to the open enrollment law?   

While many parents have expressed great excitement, school officials in many districts have argued that some of this enthusiasm should perhaps be tempered as there may end up being very few, if any, available spaces owing to already crowded campuses.

What are the criticisms about open enrollment?

Critics of Florida's move to allow open enrollment have argued that the absence of transportation assistance will mean many parents will be unwilling or unable to consider having their child switch schools. They also express concern that it will have an undue impact on budget planning owing to the fact that funding is based on student enrollment.

As far as the immediate athletic eligibility issue is concerned, some have said it could lead to a sort of "high school free agency," in which academics are put on the backburner in favor of building dynasties.

It will be fascinating to see how things unfold in the coming months …

If you have questions or concerns regarding any matter relating to education law, please consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more. 

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