The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Opinion

September 11, 2013

Editorial: Indiana still doesn't have student choice quite right

For the past few years, Indiana’s public school transfer law has been patently unfair to some students and some schools.

The law enabled school systems, basically, to accept or reject students from other districts according to their grade-point average and their disciplinary record. This meant that “school choice” was just that — schools could choose students, rather than the other way around. It was also harmful to some school systems, mostly urban, that lost their best students to other districts.

As usual, it’s all about the money, and that’s why transfers have been sought after. The money from the state for each student’s education, about $6,000 a year, follows transfer students to their new district.

Well, the problem was addressed by the Indiana Legislature when it changed the law to require schools to accept transfers without bias toward past academic performance and minor disciplinary issues.

But the law did give schools the latitude to determine how many transfers would be accepted each year. If more students apply for transfers than slots available, a lottery must be implemented.

That law went into effect July 1, meaning that Madison County area schools, like their brethren across the state, had to adhere to the new transfer rules thereafter.

In Madison County, South Madison Community Schools have about the same number of students who live out of district this year (117), as last (122), and the district did not turn away any transfer applicants during a July 1-26 application period, according to Superintendent Joe Buck. However, the old rules were in effect before July 1, and South Madison accepted or rejected transfers up until then based on academic performance and disciplinary records.

Likewise, Frankton-Lapel schools continued to apply its criteria to transfer student applicants prior to July 1 and has had “very few” transfer applicants since, according to district Superintendent Bobby Fields.

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