Open Enrollment Bill: Students Could Go to Any School in State

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by Morgan Fogarty
Bio | Email | Follow: @morganfogarty

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Creating options or chaos? A North Carolina Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight sub-committee, chaired by Senator Fletcher Hartsell, a Republican who represents Cabarrus and Union counties, is presenting a bill that would let public school students go to whatever school they wanted within their district or across the state.  Hartsell tells WCCB, "It's really designed to create parity among the public schools and the public charter schools." 

Students wouldn't have to pay tuition or seek permission to leave their home schools.  However, choice schools could deny a student enrollment, primarily due to overcrowding.  We polled Charlotte-Mecklenburg School board members on whether they supported the idea.  Four of nine responded. Joyce Davis Waddell said no.  Paul Bailey said he's hesitant to support.  Tim Morgan said if the bill became law, it would have minimal impact on CMS, due to current overcrowding.  Eric Davis tells WCCB, "Just by reassigning students, giving parents more choice, that's a worthy endeavor.  I question whether it will accomplish the real underlying needs of the the system which is to have students prepared to learn when they walk through our doors." 
 
Former school board member and current county commissioner Vilma Leake, a Democrat, says she has concerns about taxes, transportation, racial divide and more if "open enrollment" became law. She says, "So what are the rules? Who would then be over the schools? Who would be the guiding light for making sure that quality is there?"
 
Hartsell maintains the proposal is "simply a matter of creating options."  He says he's surprised by the reaction from many stakeholders.  "Change is very difficult to deal with. We'll just leave it at that," says Hartsell.
 
Hartsell tells WCCB the bill will likely be presented to the full committee on Monday and then, perhaps, recommended to go before the General Assembly during the short session that starts May 14.
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