For the third consecutive year, the Elmbrook School Board appears poised to allow no new Chapter 220 enrollments, including siblings of Chapter 220 students already attending Elmbrook.
Only one board member, Bob Ziegler, spoke in favor of allowing siblings to enroll, citing statistics that show Elmbrook's Chapter 220 students perform at least 23 percentage points higher than their Milwaukee Public Schools peers on state standardized tests.
Board members Jean Lambert and Meg Wartman said they could not support it, given the better financial incentives tied to open enrollment students versus Chapter 220.
However, the board also has dramatically slowed the growth of Open Enrollment, with many members saying they prefer to focus on increasing enrollment from resident students whose parents live in Elmbrook's boundaries and pay its school property taxes.
Elmbrook is not alone in phasing out of the Chapter 220 program. Many Milwaukee suburban school districts for years have stopped accepting new minority Milwaukee students in the voluntary integration program. They have cited the fact that, unlike the state's Open Enrollment program, Chapter 220 aid does not increase the total revenue that districts can collect.
Under an administrative recommendation to be voted upon at the board's Oct. 23 meeting, the district would add no new seats next fall. This fall there are 214 Chapter 220 students — 71 in the elementary schools, 60 in middle school and 83 in high school.
The 214 is down from 248 last year, after 17 students graduated last spring, 14 withdrew to attend a different district, two moved out of state and one became a district resident.
Another 14 students who live in Elmbrook's boundaries transfer out to attend Milwaukee Public Schools under the Chapter 220 program.
Families urge board to accept siblings
Two familes with children attending Elmbrook under the Chapter 220 program urged the board to find funds to allow siblings to attend — and to keep the program alive for future diversity and other benefits.
Jesse and Linda Ortega of Milwaukee said they are hoping their 4-year-old son Seth can join his sister at Elmbrook's Tonawanda Elementary School for kindergarten next fall. Sydney, 10, is a fourth-grader enrolled through Chapter 220, and Linda Ortega said she has been driving her son to attend preschool at United Community Methodist Church in Elm Grove because she knows many of the preschool families through Tonawanda.
"My daughter loves it," Jesse Ortega said, adding that the Chapter 220 option to attend Elmbrook instead of Milwaukee Public Schools "is a wonderful program."
Ortega, a Marine Corps veteran and Air National Guard member, said he wished he had something like it when he grew up in the "inner city" of East Chicago, IN.
He urged the board to consider allowing even some of the 36 identified siblings to enroll next fall. But board member Meg Wartman questioned how the district would choose some and not all.
"That's going to (create) that upward climb again that I don't think we want to be," she said. "I am concerned about the funding."
Parent Sam Jackoyo, whose two children were able to enroll before the recent restrictions, said he hoped as Elmbrook's finances continue to improve, there will be room for Chapter 220 enrollments. His son graduated last year and his daughter is a freshman at Central this fall.
Both his children and non-minority students at Elmbrook benefit from cultural diversity, especially in an increasingly global competitive marketplace upon graduation, Jackoyo said.
Elmbrook has high Asian population
Board member Glen Allgaier asked the district to provide information on how restricting Chapter 220 enrollment will impact its diversity.
"Is our minority population going to be shrinking substantially as a result of this decision?" he asked.
Wartman noted a September Public Policy Forum school report that showed Elmbrook's minority student population was about 22 percent, compared to the statewide average of 27 percent.
According to that report, in the 2011-12 school year 78.2 percent of Elmbrook's students were white.
Elmbrook's Asian population — 10.8 percent of enrollment — was the highest Asian population of all public school districts in the seven-county southeastern Wisconsin region, the report said, followed by Brown Deer's 10.5 percent, the report said.
In Elmbrook, 4.9 percent of students were African American; 4 percent were Hispanic; 1.8 percent self-identified as two or more races; 0.2 percent were American Indian and 0.1 percent were Pacific Islander. The report did not provide previous year data.