Mahtomedi superintendent defends open enrollment

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 4, 2011 - 6:36 PM

In a lengthy podcast, Mark Larson says the district makes money through open enrollment.

Mahtomedi's superintendent is attempting to convince residents that bringing in outside students will not cost the district more money. In fact, Superintendent Mark Larson said, it will raise funds during a time of financial difficulties.

Many residents have argued at town hall and school board meetings that the superintendent is recruiting outside students through open enrollment, which they contend will ultimately dry up the district's funds and resources.

State law allows for students to transfer outside their district as long as their family provides transportation, and the state per-pupil funding follows the student to his or her new district.

In one of his more lengthy weekly podcasts on the district's website, Larson broke down the costs associated with bringing in outside students and tried to dispel rumors that the move costs the district more money.

"People have some strong beliefs and even with knowledge, some aren't convinced," Larson said. "I've heard more than once that districts lose money through open enrollment."

About 22 percent of the district's current students live outside the district's boundaries. Most of those students come from surrounding districts, and a large portion are children of educators who work in the district.

Larson noted that other districts actively recruit students through marketing campaigns and advertisements but that Mahtomedi does not.

"I guess I believed that the common knowledge that having recruited students was the norm, and the fact that some districts created magnets and charters, all made it obvious that open enrollment was a good thing for school districts," he said.

Larson contends that out-of-district students net the district about $1,800 each. That's a total of $1.3 million that Larson says goes toward funding district programs and services.

Mahtomedi spends an average of $10,834 per student, Larson said, but because many of the costs associated with in-district students are not associated with out-of-district students, the district can direct those funds elsewhere.

Students from outside the district, for example, don't use vocational education, community education or transportation. And the district can bill a student's home district for any special education services.

After subtracting that from the per-student cost of $10,834, a student from outside the district costs about $4,819, Larson said. The state provides districts $6,649 a year for each student they enroll, whether they live in the district or not.

"I know that people will believe what they want to believe," Larson said. "But it's good to have this information out there nonetheless. "

To listen to the podcast, go to www.startribune.com/a445.

Daarel Burnette II • 651-735-1695 Twitter: @DaarelStrib

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