Deep Dive: Innovative Ways GCISD Can Grow, why consider ‘open enrollment’

Recently in candidate forums, the idea of “open enrollment” has been brought up by both Sergio Harris and Kimberly Phoenix as a way to increase revenue instead of cutting teachers, classes, and programs as our current board majority supports. The concept of “open enrollment” is not new in GCISD. We built amazing programs of choice and could continue to grow them by adding the right kids at the right time, rather than cutting programs and chasing away excellent teachers. Open enrollment is what currently allows Grapevine residents not zoned to GCISD to still attend GCISD schools. It also allowed Carrol ISD to recently open up to the families of first responders, just like GCISD teachers can bring their kids. 

What is Open Enrollment?

In Texas, the state allows each district to decide its own open enrollment policies. Open enrollment refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. It runs similarly to a voucher program in that the school can create its own parameters and is not required to take any child that applies. However, if accepted, the state’s funding for that child follows the child to the new campus. Unlike a voucher program, the accepting school is a Texas independent school district and is accountable for the funds in the same way the student’s home campus would be. It is a much more accountable version of school choice than vouchers and charter schools.

How is this good for GCISD?

Open enrollment allows a district to create greater efficiency of operations by determining in advance which programs, classes, or campuses have space in order to maximize their enrollment capacity in buildings that are already being heated, cooled, and cleaned. Adjusting in this way can save teaching positions, keep GCISD from having to apply for waivers when exceeding classroom capacity, and can generate additional revenue for the district depending on where the legislature sets target revenue and the number of students who apply.

Could we set admissions standards? 

Yes! In the early days of ASPIRE, students who met the admission criteria were allowed to apply. A few years later, the program hit max capacity and that option closed. With our unique schools of choice, we could set different parameters for each program and even limit what grades we would accept. We could allow it for one year at a time and even make residency a requirement after a certain timeframe, which would allow families to move here after guaranteeing that their child would qualify for a particular program. In ASPIRE, for example, children are required to attain certain testing scores, which we currently do not charge for (but could!) In a tight housing market, it is hard for families to make the choice to move until they know if their student will qualify. This expands our potential applicant pool AND draws more families to our area.

How does this help with GCISD funding?

Districts that allow open enrollment are able to set admissions criteria based on seat availability at designated schools and can require that all students accepted provide his or her own transportation to and from school. In Texas the money follows the child so we would get funding for that student. Additionally, GCISD already loses residents to other specialized programs in other districts. Districts with magnet, academy, or vanguard programs often accept outside applications on a space available basis. We lose highly talented families of kids that qualify to Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts and Grand Prairie Fine Arts Academy because we don’t have an arts focused high school academy. Perhaps instead of cutting our programs of choice, we should expand them!

There are many additional situations that would have to be discussed at a board level if this were to be explored, such as the impact on UIL rules, etc. But it is an excellent and creative way to keep our amazing programs strong for our community!

Example: See how the Grand Prairie Kaleidoscope program works.

Thank you Kimberly and Sergio for offering REAL solutions! Read more about the candidates our students deserve.