Public School Open Enrollment and Virtual Charter Schools

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					Public School Open Enrollment & Virtual Charter Schools
Mary Jo Cleaver, Open Enrollment Consultant Department of Public Instruction Wisconsin Charter Schools Conference April 2007

Enabled by Wisconsin Law
The Charter School Law + The Open Enrollment Law
 Have enabled the creation of virtual charter schools that are accessible to students throughout the state.
 Virtual charter schools are no different under Wisconsin law than any other charter schools.

Charter Schools are Not Included in Open Enrollment
 Wis. Stats. § 118.40 (7) (b) provides:
Except as otherwise explicitly provided, chapters 115 to 121 do not apply to charter schools.

 The open enrollment law is not specifically included in the charter school law.

Therefore…
 Nonresident students have access to charter schools only through open enrollment to the nonresident school district.  Charter schools must meet the requirements of Wis. Stats. § 118.40 in their creation and operation… and  School districts must meet the requirements of Wis. Stats. § 118.51 in enrolling nonresident students.

Receiving/Handling Applications
 Must adhere to the statutory application period.  May only use the open enrollment application form created by the Department.  Forms must be received physically in the school district no later than 4:00 p.m. on the last day of the application period.

Approval/Denial
 Notices must be post-marked on or before the 1st Friday following the 1st Monday in April.  If there are more applications “for a specific grade or program” than there are spaces available in that grade or program, the district must:
 Determine which pupils to accept (including pupils accepted from a waiting list) on a random basis…  …After giving preference to pupils and siblings of pupils who are already attending school in the district.

School Assignment
 Notices must be sent on or before the 1st Friday following the 1st Monday in May.  There are no specific requirements for how the district assigns students to schools and programs in the district, except that…  …The district may give preference in attendance at a school, program, class or grade to residents of the district who live outside the school’s attendance area.

School Assignment, continued
 Once a student is open enrolled, the student has all of the rights and privileges of resident students and is subject to the same rules and regulations as resident students.

Parent-Paid Tuition
 Charter schools may not charge tuition.  School districts may charge tuition.  School districts may enroll nonresident students on a parent-paid tuition basis and assign them to charter schools.  Parent-paid tuition = OE transfer amount.  Charter school compensation is contained in the contract.

Special Challenges in Combining Open Enrollment with Virtual Charter Schools

Not A Perfect Fit
 Current legislation did not specifically envision virtual charter schools.  Statutes are silent on virtual schools.

 Therefore, school districts with virtual charter schools must follow:
 All laws that apply to charter schools, and  All laws that apply to open enrollment.

Public Information
 School districts are ultimately responsible for all advertising and promotional materials.  Significant factual errors have been made when advertising is controlled only by the marketing department of the organization that operates the charter school.

Web Site & Written Instructions for Applying
 Simple, basic and uncluttered.  Clear instructions for applying.  Instructions (or sample) for filling out form, especially:
 Nonresident district  Resident district  Specific school or program requested

 Deadline.  Address and fax for filing form.  Phone number for questions.

Application Procedures
 May only include:
Obtaining DPI form Filling out DPI form Filing the form with the nonresident district.

 May not include:
Requests for additional information. Requirement to fill out survey or selfassessment.

Processing Applications
 Copies of applications must be sent to resident districts & the DPI on the 4th Monday in February.  Request records for all students.

 Volume is not an excuse for tardiness.

Special Education
 Review IEP to determine whether the special education and related services can be provided.
 Send an estimate of “actual, additional cost” by March 15.

Expelled Students
 A nonresident district may deny the application of a student:
Who has been expelled during the current or preceding 2 school years for certain offenses. Is currently serving an expulsion that will extend into the next school term.

 Resident districts may not prevent expelled students from transferring to other districts under open enrollment.

Age of Pupils
 Students are entitled to a free education through the end of the semester in which the student turns 21.
Through the end of the school term for students with disabilities.

Tracking Students
 Students have no physical connection to either nonresident or resident district.  Laptop may be taken anywhere.  Internet is worldwide. However…  Only Wisconsin residents are entitled to free education and open enrollment.  Dual enrollment is not permitted in Wisconsin.

Tracking Students, continued
 Students have moved out of the resident district, out of the state, and even out of the country, without notifying either school district.  Students have ceased to turn in assignments, yet claim to still be enrolled in the virtual school.

Tracking Students, continued
 Students have enrolled full-time in their resident school district or a private school without notifying the virtual school, and while continuing to log in to the virtual school.  Regular and consistent communication with parents and resident school districts is key to accurate tracking and reporting of OE students.

Tracking Students, continued
 The virtual school must establish procedures to be able to ascertain and report:
 The student’s resident district on the 3rd Friday in September.  If the student moves from one resident school district to another.  If the student ceases to be a resident of Wisconsin.  If the student ceases to “attend” the virtual charter school, thus ending open enrollment.

Temporary Absences from the State
 Some students open enroll to virtual schools so that they are able to participate in out-of-state activities.  This raises a number of questions, to which there are few clear answers at this time.  Temporary absences from the state may be permitted, but care must be taken that the student continues to be eligible for a free education, as required in state law & the “Thayer” decision.

Interim Guidelines
 A student who is temporarily absent from the state may continue open enrollment if all of the following apply:
 The temporary absence is for a temporary purpose such as, but not limited to: competition, employment, or family visit.

 The temporary absence from the state was approved in advance and in writing by the nonresident district with notification to the resident district and the DPI.

Interim Guidelines, continued
The student continues to be a resident of Wisconsin and the resident school district:
 No actions are taken to establish residency in the out-of-state location or to discontinue residency in Wisconsin.  The student is not enrolled in any other public, private or home-based program during the time of the temporary absence.

 The student is physically in the state and “attending school for the purposes of instruction” on the count date or at least one day before and one day after the count date.

Interim Guidelines, continued
The pupil continues to submit regular assignments, as directed by the nonresident school district, during the entire period of the temporary absence from the state (except for excused absences from school attendance).

 A pupil’s temporary absence from the state that is incidental to an excused absence under Wis. Stats. § 118.15 (3) does not terminate the pupil’s open enrollment.

Resident School District’s Responsibility
 Resident school districts are responsible only to:
 Pay for the student’s open enrollment.  Allow the student to return to the district, if requested.

 Resident districts are not required to allow students open enrolled out of the district to:
 Take any courses in the resident district.  Participate in any extra-curricular activities in the resident district.

In Summary
 Wisconsin’s charter school and open enrollment laws have enabled virtual charter schools to access students throughout the state.  School districts, not charter schools, are responsible for the administration of open enrollment.  All open enrollment laws, as well as all charter school laws, must be followed.

 Although there are challenges, for the most part students have successfully participated in open enrollment to virtual charter schools.

Mary Jo Cleaver, Open Enrollment Consultant 125 S. Webster Street, P.O. Box 7841 Madison, WI 53707-7841 608-267-9101 or toll-free 888-245-2732 email: maryjo.cleaver@dpi.state.wi.us Web site: www.dpi.state.wi.us/sms/psctoc.html


				
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