Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 25, 2013

Public school transfer bill advances

Uncertain fate awaits bill in Senate.

From staff reports

— A bill to reduce the discretion public schools have to accept or reject out-of-district transfer students passed through the Indiana House of Representatives Wednesday with an 84-11 vote.

The measure, authored by State Rep. Mike Karickhoff, R-Kokomo and co-authored by representatives Ed Clere, R-New Albany, Kevin Mahan, R- Hartford City, and Terri Austin, D-Anderson, would require a school corporation to publicly establish the number of transfer students, per grade level, each school will accept from outside their district.

Under the proposals, schools would not be able deny a transfer request — either from another school corporation or between two schools within the same corporation — for any reason other than capacity.

If the number of transfer requests a school corporation receives exceeds the school’s capacity, admissions would be determined by a random drawing at a public meeting.

Schools would be able to deny a request for a student to transfer, or to establish terms and conditions for enrollment that prevent a student from enrolling, if the student was suspended in the 12 months preceding the student’s request to transfer for 10 or more school days; for causing a physical injury; for possession of a firearm; or for a violation of drug or alcohol rules.

In a press statement Thursday, Karickhoff said the bill “balances local control by ensuring school choice is available to all students without discrimination.”

“Currently, public schools are allowed to accept transfer students based on whatever criteria they deem worthy,” said Rep. Karickhoff. “This bill allows students to choose their schools instead of schools choosing their students.”

Opponents of the bill say it would force schools to accept marginal students, thereby making it harder for schools to comply with performance-based mandates put in place in previous Indiana General Assembly sessions.

Officials at some high-performing public schools have suggested they’ll stop taking transfer students entirely if the bill passes.

The Indiana Federation of Teachers, Indiana Urban Schools Association, Indiana School Boards Association and Indiana High School Athletic Association support the change.

The bill, HB 1381, will now move on to the Senate for further debate and discussion.