Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

January 3, 2013

Let parents make choice

The issue: Interdistrict student transfers.

Our view: Lawmakers should instill fairness in the way public schools fill class vacancies.

Mitch Daniels is soft-spoken, persuasive and prone to self-deprecation. In other words, our soon to be ex-governor is a gifted public speaker.

Applause interrupted Daniels 15 times during his State of the State address in 2011. The audience twice rose to ovations as he explained his proposals to improve K-12 education.

We had wished at the time our lawmakers were more receptive to Daniels’ call for fairness in interdistrict student transfers:

“Families are now able to choose public schools outside the districts they reside in, tuition-free. Schools have begun advertising campaigns, touting their graduation rates and higher test scores. This competition is a highly positive development, as long as it is fair. I ask you to protect our families against any possibility of discrimination by requiring that any school with more applicants than room fill it through a lottery or other blind selection process.”

We applauded the proposal. Perhaps state Rep. Mike Karickhoff did as well. The Kokomo Republican worked with Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City, to introduce a bill that would have prevented schools from choosing their students.

It didn’t go anywhere in 2012. But that’s not stopping Karickhoff.

The longtime Kokomo city councilman wants each school system to announce its number of vacancies at every grade level. He wants those openings filled on a first come, first served basis. If there are more transfer requests than vacancies, he wants lotteries used to fill them.

And in the next legislative session – which begins Monday – he’ll seek to limit denials for school transfers only to those students who have been suspended more than 10 days.

Since Eastern Howard School Corp. waived tuition fees for students living outside the district two years ago, most local school districts have required transferring students be at grade level, have a good attendance record and no discipline problems. There are few rules limiting what factors schools can consider when admitting out-of-district students, the state Education Department told us in July 2010.

Criteria for admission to another school district is a local decision.

Once school funding was removed from property taxes in January 2010, lawmakers opened the door for students to attend public schools outside their own districts. We must ensure student access to any and all of them.

We’re happy to report Karickhoff will endeavor to do just that in the next legislative session.

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