The first bill draft, authored by Assembly Education Chair Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) & Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), expands the part-time open enrollment program and renames it the course choice program. The expansion would bring in additional educational institutions and expand the number of grades that may participate from just high school to grades 1-12.
Under the bill, a pupil enrolled in an educational institution, as defined in the bill, in grades 1-12 may attend a course at another educational institution. The current law requirement that a pupil may attend no more than a total of two courses at any one time remains under the bill’s course choice program.
The bill defines an educational institution as any of the following:
- A public school under the control of a pupil’s resident school board, including
a charter school authorized by the resident school board.
- A public school under the control of a pupil’s nonresident school board,
including a charter school authorized by the nonresident school board.
- An independent charter school.
- A private school.
- A nonprofit organization approved by the Department of Public Instruction
Under the current part-time open enrollment program, a pupil enrolled in a public school in the high school grades may attend a course at a public school in a nonresident school district.
Voluntary for private schools/nonprofits; mandatory for public schools
Under the bill, participation in the course choice program is optional for a private school or a nonprofit organization. If a private school or nonprofit organization chooses not to participate, students attending those institutions may not attend courses at other educational institutions under the course choice program. Participation in both the part-time open enrollment program and the course choice program is mandatory for public schools.
Under the bill, the educational institution that a pupil attends on a full-time basis must pay the educational institution offering a course the pupil takes under the course choice program an amount equal to the costs of providing the course to the pupil, as determined by DPI. The bill prohibits an educational institution from
charging or receiving any additional payment from a pupil or a pupil’s full-time educational institution for attending a course at the educational institution under the course choice program.
Can still reject applications if undue financial burden
Under the current part-time open enrollment program, a pupil’s resident school board may reject a pupil’s application to attend a course in a nonresident school district if the resident school board determines that the cost of the course would impose an undue burden on the resident school district. The bill extends the authority to reject a pupil’s application on the basis that the cost of the course would be an undue burden to all full-time educational institutions.
Similar to the low-income transportation assistance offered under current law, a pupil attending a course under the course choice program may apply to DPI for financial assistance for the cost of transportation to a course the pupil attends under the course choice program if the pupil is unable to pay the cost of the transportation. Under current law, in awarding transportation assistance, DPI must give a preference to pupils who satisfy the criteria for free or reduced-price lunch. Under the bill, DPI must also give a preference to pupils who attend an educational institution in a rural community.
Finally, the bill requires DPI to include information on the course choice program on DPI’s Internet site, including links to the Internet sites of educational institutions participating in the program.