Thanks to a change Gov. Scott Walker signed into law Wednesday, families will have a longer annual window to ask to change school districts under the state's open enrollment program.
Starting Monday and running through April 30, students and their parents can apply to enroll in the public school district of their choice, not the one in which they reside. Previously, parents had to apply during a three-week window every February.
"Open enrollment empowers parents with additional educational opportunities for students," Walker said after signing the bill.
But all school districts have the right to control how many non-resident students they'll accept, and Elmbrook is clamping down on its open enrollment.
Elmbrook is poised to accept the fewest students from outside its boundary in at least a decade.
Elmbrook will accept up to 12 new open enrollment students in ninth grade for the 2012-13 school year. That's down from 102, 122 and 74 new open enrollment students allowed in Elmbrook's three previous school years.
The board could add a few more seats next summer for siblings of existing open enrollment students. About a dozen siblings a year have been added in the past three years, although last summer a proposal to adding16 by a 4-3 board vote.
The board was divided again last month when it voted 4-3 to add 12 new open enrollment seats next year. Voting in favor were board members Glen Allgaier, Dick Brunner, Meg Wartman and Bob Ziegler. Voting against were Tom Gehl, Jean Lambert and Kathryn Wilson.
Elmbrook for the second year also , including siblings of existing Chapter 220 students at Elmbrook. The voluntary program allows minority Milwaukee students to enroll in suburban Milwaukee school districts.
Class size, budget concerns
Wartman and Lambert, who each face challengers in the April 3 election, joined the majority view that Elmbrook needs to focus on educating its resident students and sizing its staff (and labor and budget costs) to that enrollment.
Some parents have criticized the board for not accepting more students — who add about $1,000 in net revenue per student — at the same time it has taken measures such as closing .
Wartman said she was concerned the number of siblings requests next summer could be too high, which, if approved, could result in some tighter class sizes. Lambert asked district officials whether they could warn families during the open enrollment application period that younger siblings might not be approved.
Some school districts, such as Menomonee Falls and Hamilton, automatically accept all siblings of current open enrollment students. Some districts are more conservative in the number of open enrollment students they accept, such as Mequon-Thiensville, while others accept nearly all who apply.
West Allis accepted 550 open enrollment students last year; Greenfield took in 447; and Wauwatosa, 335 students.
Elmbrook is projecting that in the 2012-13 school year the district will have a total of 6,455 resident students and 792 non-resident students.
Here is a look at the number of open enrollment seats approved by Elmbrook in recent years.OPEN ENROLLMENT - ELMBROOK School Year New OE Seats Approved 2012-13 12* 2011-12 118 2010-11 132 2009-10 85 2008-09 46 2007-08 80 2006-07 76 2005-06 129 2004-05 137 2003-04 148 * Additional seats could be added in July 2012 Source: Elmbrook School District