Meeting about Austintown open enrollment is 5:30 p.m. Wednesday
District to show impact of controversial policy
By Justin Wier
The Austintown school district will present data to the community Wednesday about the effects of the district’s open-enrollment policy.
The policy allowing students from outside the district to enroll in Austintown schools has been a controversial topic. In 2015, there were 686 open enrollment students which comprised 13.6 percent of the district population. The school has 773 open-enrollment students this year.
Superintendent Vince Colaluca said district officials have data on attendance, discipline and test scores that compare the outcomes between in-district students and open-enrollment students.
At the most recent school board meeting, Colaluca said there is little difference between the two groups.
The administration also will present data on the financial impact the policy has had on the district.
Colaluca argues that accepting open-enrollment students allows the school to offer programs that are not mandated by the state but offer advantages to the district’s students.
He also said the district has been able to sustain operations without a new operating levy since 1996 – a fact he credits in part to open enrollment, which began in 2009.
Opponents of open enrollment cite a report issued by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost that said the costs of open enrollment in Austintown outweighed the benefits by $25,652 in 2015.
Colaluca said the auditor’s recommendations were taken into consideration by the administration.
On Wednesday, the administration will make its recommendations to the board about how to approach open enrollment going forward. The meeting will occur at 5:30 p.m. in the Austintown Middle School cafeteria.
Questions will be accepted at the meeting through a postcard system, but Colaluca said there will not be an open forum for community members to voice their concerns.
Board member Harold Porter has been a consistent opponent of the policy. He said he doesn’t know what to expect at Wednesday night’s meeting, but he gets the impression that the administration wants to increase open enrollment.
“Everybody sees $4.7 million coming in,” he said. “You can’t take on 800 kids through open enrollment and not have profits that come with it. It’s the costs that concern me.”