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September 03, 2009
September 09, 2009
“Of all human powers operating on the affairs of mankind, none is greater than that of competition,” said Senator Henry Clay in 1832. We’ve all bitten from the competition apple, and it tastes pretty good. Today, we have scores of TV channels, hotels, restaurants, car dealerships, and grocery stores from which to choose: an incredible amount of choice, all driven by free-markets and competition.
Competition is one reason why I love Ohio’s inter-district open enrollment policy. It allows school districts to compete for students, largely irrespective of where the student lives. Under state law, a district may adopt a local board policy, whereby it can admit students from either anywhere in Ohio or only from an adjacent district. Over 400 districts in the state have adopted an open enrollment policy.
As we reported in October, the state’s open enrollment policy has been put under the microscope in a legally mandated task-force review. The task force’s documents are now posted online and the report with policy recommendations is available also. The following are what I take away from the task force’s documents and report.
Jeffrey Layton, superintendent of Northwestern Local (Wayne County)—a net gainer in open enrollment—writes to the task force: “Competition drives innovation.” Layton adds that he would “like to see incoming open enrollment become more competitive, which will only further promote students achievement through parent and student motivation.”
He is right. Competition between school districts can drive productivity, innovation, and effectiveness—the very qualities we want to see on the “supply” side of schooling. Not only that, open enrollment also bolsters the “demand” side of the education equation by encouraging and emboldening parental involvement in their kids’ school. We all know parents matter in a kid’s educational outcomes: So, why not motivate parents by giving them a conscious choice in schools?
The open enrollment task force shows that many Ohio school districts are competing hard to educate kids. That is a good thing—and let’s not for a second disregard what these districts are doing. Meanwhile, a growing number of parents are exercising school choice through the state’s open enrollment program. Moving forward, more districts should open their doors, especially those in high-wealth suburban areas. As open enrollment “sweeps across Ohio,” let’s strengthen not weaken Ohio’s open enrollment policy.