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Janesville School District open-enrollment results better than expected

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
June 16, 2012
— The Janesville School District administration is touting its attractiveness with an announcement about out-of-district families choosing to send their children here.

The state’s open-enrollment law allows parents to send their children to any school district, as long as parents provide transportation.


Open-enrollment numbers change as students leave or join a district throughout the school year, but as the school year ended, Janesville had gained 82 more open-enrolling students than it lost.


The district reports 296 incoming open-enrollment students during the school year that just ended, compared with 214 who open-enrolled out.


Janesville has gained more students than it lost every year since 1999-2000, but this year’s results were even better than expected, officials said.


The result is $542,003 more revenue than was budgeted.


For each student transferring to a different district, the state shifts part of the sending district’s aid payments to the receiving district. That amount was $6,867 in the school year that just ended. Next year, it will be $6,445.


Other districts lose money in the deal. The Milton School District—by far the biggest supplier of open-enrollment students for Janesville—has lost state aid through open enrollment in recent years.


The district’s news release pointed to efforts officials have made over the past year to promote the district, although it made no direct connection to the positive open-enrollment numbers.


Janesville officials set up a marketing committee a year ago. The district has increased promotional efforts on social media and updated its website. Superintendent Karen Schulte began blogging, most often about achievements and positive events in the schools.


The district said in the news release that one reason for the influx is the “incredible opportunities” for students in an award-winning district.


Several of the district’s schools won awards this year. Kennedy Elementary School won a national award for its relatively high test scores despite a high rate of poverty. Four schools won state awards for similar accomplishments: Adams and Lincoln elementary schools, Edison Middle School and TAGOS Leadership Academy.


U.S. News & World Report, whose data also factors in low-income students, gave Parker High School a high rating. The district’s elementary-school Chinese program—at Roosevelt and Harrison schools—was named one of 100 exemplary Chinese-language programs by the Asia Society.


The district also touts its array of extra-curricular offerings and Advanced Placement courses.


Officials say their plans to boost test scores are on track, and some positive signs showed up in state tests the past two years, but Wilson Elementary School, where nearly every student comes from a low-income family, produced disappointing test results.


Officials have been more open this year than at any time in the past about efforts to attract students. The Janesville School Board set a goal last year of increasing open-enrollment students brought in.


The school board finance committee is set to hear a report on the numbers Tuesday.



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