RUSHVILLE — Legislation that would stop public schools from “cherry picking” transfer students is headed to the Indiana House.
The bill would ban school districts from accepting only the brightest transfer students while turning away students with special needs, low test scores, and minor disciplinary problems.
The House education committee approved the legislation in a 9-0 vote Tuesday, after hearing from teachers and administrators in urban schools who said their suburban counterparts were unfairly profiting from Indiana’s decision three years ago to open up school district borders.
“We’re going to do our level best to ensure that students choose schools (and) schools aren’t choosing students,” said the bill’s author, Republican state Rep. Mike Karickhoff of Kokomo.
Co-authors on House Bill 1381 include Democrat Rep. Terri Austin of Anderson, and two other Republicans, Rep. Ed Clere of New Albany and Rep. Kevin Mahan of Hartford City.
At issue is Indiana’s open enrollment law, passed by the General Assembly in 2008, which cleared the way for more students to transfer out of the school district where they live and into a neighboring district without having to pay tuition.
The change came after the state took over funding of schools, which had been previously paid for with local property taxes.
Within a year of the law going into effect, more than 12,000 students had transferred out of their home districts and into a neighboring district. Many have transferred out of urban school districts and into suburban or rural districts.
The original open enrollment law allowed school districts to set policies about who they’d accept. Some schools have used students’ standardized test scores and disciplinary records to determine which transfer students to let in – and which ones to close out. Some school boards have decided not to accept any transfer students at all.