Top education official pushes for open enrollment in Kentucky school districts

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky public school students should be allowed to attend school in districts other than the ones in which they live, according to one of the state's top education officials.

Kentucky's Education and Workforce Development Secretary Hal Heiner is pushing for open enrollment in the state, as long as seats are available in other districts.

"Even with the best of intentions, students’ needs and career aspirations are so diverse today that no school district can ever be expected to meet each demand," Heiner says in a report he will present during Wednesday's Kentucky Board of Education meeting. "Putting students in the position of not being able to pursue their area of interest or career pathway because their aspirations do not align with the programs available in their home districts is not in the best interest of the student or our Commonwealth."

It is unfortunate, Heiner says, that "Kentucky students miss opportunities to participate in innovative programs aligned with their personal goals when seats are available in neighboring school districts."

He notes that other states, such as Michigan and Indiana,have open enrollment policies.

Indiana's open enrollment policy allows parents to send their kids to any school district that opts to participate. 

School districts in Kentucky are already allowed to have into inter-district enrollment agreements so that students in one district can attend school in another district, but in those cases, families must pay tuition.

For example, there are 84 Jefferson County students who pay tuition to attend five other Kentucky districts and one student who resides in another Kentucky district who pays tuition to attend Jefferson County Public Schools.

"Students in one Kentucky school district should never be prohibited from benefiting from innovative programs in neighboring districts, especially when parents are willing to provide transportation and an open seat is available," Heiner says in his report. "Providing students access to an expanded array of specialized academic and career programs is great for the student and a major step forward for the future of our Commonwealth."

This isn't the first time Heiner has made a bold proposal.

In December, Heiner said he would like to see an A-F school grading system implemented across Kentucky as the state moves forward with the redesign of its school accountability system.

As Education and Workforce Development Secretary, Heiner was appointed by Gov. Matt Bevin to serve on his cabinet, wheras Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt oversees all public schools in Kentucky.

Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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