The Tennessee Senate passed a bill to standardize open enrollment processes for schools. Present law allows local educational authorities (LEA) to develop their own policies for open enrollment periods. Through the bill, each LEA would be required to have the open enrollment period last at least 30 days, as well as identify schools with available space for enrollment based on grade, class, and program level at least two weeks before the open enrollment period begins. It wouldn’t allow students to enroll in counties outside of their own.
The bill passed 27 to 2, with 3 senators abstaining their vote. State Senators Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville) and Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) voted against the bill; Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville), and Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) abstained.
During the Senate floor’s third and final hearing of the bill, Yarbro said he was concerned that the bill would fix problems that don’t exist. He said that the bill might unintentionally change and potentially weaken local policies.
State Senator Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) said that he was a product of open enrollment, and hoped that the legislature would seek “true open enrollment” next year by allowing students to enroll in LEAs outside of their county. He clarified that he backs this bill.
“Oftentimes, changing schools will do a kid more good because it changes the crowd he’s running with,” said Niceley. “I think we ought to let kids go to any county, across county lines, if there was a vacancy.”
The bill was sponsored by State Senator Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol).
In a statement to The Tennessee Star, Lundberg shared that this serves as a win for Tennessean families and for school choice.
“I’m proud that we created more transparency for parents – and ultimately, provided them more options,” said Lundberg.
The House is scheduled to consider the bill on Monday.
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