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March 19, 2009

Madison Schools to Deny Open Enrollment Applications Based on Income?

Seth Jovaag, via a kind reader's email:

In February 2008, the Madison school board - facing mounting legal pressure - overturned a policy that allowed the district to deny transfer requests based on race. Before that, white students were routinely told they couldn't transfer. Madison was the only district in the state with such a policy, which aimed to limit racial inequalities throughout the district, said district spokesman Ken Syke.

With that policy gone, Madison saw a nearly 50 percent increase in students asking to transfer, from 435 to 643.

Madison superintendent Daniel Nerad notes that Madison's numbers had been steadily increasing for years. But he acknowledged that the policy change likely explains some of this year's jump.

"I think we do see some effect of that, but I'm not suggesting all of it comes from that, because frankly we don't know," he said.

Still, Nerad has clearly taken notice. Given the new numbers, he plans to ask state lawmakers to allow Madison to deny future requests based on family income levels, rather than race, to prevent disparities from further growing between Madison and its suburbs.

Other districts that border Madison - including Monona Grove, Middleton and McFarland - are seeing more transfer requests from Madison this year, too.

"The change Madison made ... that certainly increased the application numbers," said McFarland's business director, Jeff Mahoney.

In addition, Verona school board member Dennis Beres said he suspects many Madison parents are trying to transfer their kids from the chronically overcrowded Aldo Leopold elementary school, which is just two miles northeast of Stoner Prairie Elementary in Fitchburg.

Fascinating. I would hope that the Madison School District would pursue students with high academic standards rather than simply try, via legislative influence and lobbying, to prevent them from leaving.... The effects of that initiative may not be positive for the City of Madison's tax base.

Related: 2009/2010 Madison Open Enrollment applications. Much more on open enrollment here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at March 19, 2009 1:55 PM
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