Commentary: Three States Are Rethinking the Relationship Between Housing and Education Quality

Most of the nation’s 48.2 million public K-12 students are assigned to their schools based on geographic school districts or attendance zones, with few options for transferring to another public school district. This method of school assignment intertwines schooling with property wealth, limiting families’ education options according to where they can afford to live.

A 2019 Senate Joint Economic Committee report found that homes near highly rated schools were four times the cost of homes near poorly rated schools. This presents a real barrier for many families – and 56% of respondents in a 2019 Cato survey indicated that expensive housing costs prevented them from moving to better neighborhoods. The challenge has only deepened as housing prices skyrocketed during the pandemic, putting better housing and education options out of reach for many.

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Senate Passes Bill to Standardize Open Enrollment Processes for Schools

Classroom full of kids, that are being read a book

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.

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JC Bowman Commentary: Open Enrollment is a Choice

As the focus on education choice is elevated by Governor-elect Bill Lee, maybe the easiest place to find initial consensus is with open enrollment. We must expand open enrollment policies in our public school districts.

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