The Dec. 17 editorial “Using school open enrollment properly,” regarding Minnetonka’s implementation of open enrollment under Minnesota law, requires a response.
This entire matter has been filled with misinformation and a failure to consider facts. The Star Tribune has not told the entire story. We appreciate the point made in the editorial that “Minnetonka school leaders and [the Minnesota Department of Education] have since worked through the issues and are satisfied that the district is in compliance.” However, the rest of the editorial left readers to believe that Minnetonka had not followed the law when indeed the district had fully complied with it.
Someone initiated a message to the Education Department regarding Minnetonka’s management of open enrollment and the department issued an opinion letter without investigating the validity of the information it had received. At the same time it sent the letter to Minnetonka, it also sent a copy to the Star Tribune. A news article by the Star Tribune on Dec. 1 (“Did district go too far to recruit students?”) failed to include important information that the district had provided that would have cleared up the entire matter.
I met with the Education Department and provided the facts regarding Minnetonka’s administration of the law. There are several parts to the law. The first part provides for the requirement of all districts to follow certain steps to allow or deny open enrollment to students. Under that part, districts are able to accept all applicants for open enrollment who apply by Jan. 15 before the start of the next school year.
The second part of the law provides, under Subd. 5a (“Lotteries”) in Section 124D.03 of the Minnesota Statutes, that “If a school district has more applications than available seats at a specific grade level, it must hold an impartial lottery following the January 15 deadline to determine which students will receive seats. The district must give priority to enrolling siblings of currently enrolled students, students whose applications are related to an approved integration and achievement plan [and] children of the school district’s staff.”
Because Minnetonka had offered positions in the district to all students who applied by Jan. 15, the district was not required to hold a lottery. That point has been made with the Education Department in Minnetonka’s response because the department was not accurate in its conclusion that Minnetonka had to run a lottery.
Furthermore, the district did not give priority to students in its preschool; rather, it encouraged its preschool parents to apply for open enrollment as soon as the law allowed. The Education Department did not possess the facts about that matter, either. Minnetonka has been in compliance with the department’s expectations.
The Star Tribune was provided with the facts in this matter that Minnetonka has been in compliance with the law regarding lotteries, and the paper was informed last week, and again this week, that the meeting between the Education Department and Minnetonka had been held and that the follow-up letter had been written to resolve all of the issues raised in the department’s initial letter. That information was not used by the Star Tribune, which further confused a simple matter that had been built on misinformation in the first place.
Dennis L. Peterson is superintendent of Minnetonka schools.