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Researcher: Open Enrollment Needs To Be Reassessed

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Last year Ania Ritter moved her first and third graders from a Minneapolis school to one in Bloomington. She said her neighborhood schools just aren’t meeting her kids’ academic needs.

“This was an excruciating process,” Ritter said. “The expectation levels weren’t as high as they needed to be.”

The Ritter family is far from alone. A study from the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity shows that in the 2009-2010 school year, Minneapolis lost more than 1,000 white students. Many of those students went to Edina in the west and St. Anthony/New Brighton in the north.

Minneapolis isn’t the only city with students leaving.

“St. Paul loses a significant number of white students to Roseville and surrounding districts,” said Myron Orfield, the director of the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity.

Orfield’s team put together a map of the top-receiving and top-sending schools districts. In it, you can see that Mahtomedi takes mostly from White Bear Lake. In Columbia Heights, many kids go to Fridley. The Minnetonka School District takes students from eastern Carver County, Hopkins and Eden Prairie.

“Hopkins seems, to Minneapolis kids, like a rich district, but to many of the kids in the most affluent part of Hopkins, they don’t want to be in Hopkins,” Orfield said.

Orfield believes the idea of open enrollment is good, but the state needs to take a closer look at how it operates.

“It should be fair. It should be if you’re white, you’re able to do this. If you’re not white, you should be able to do this,” he said.

Edina Superintendent Ric Dressen said the open enrollment policy needs to be “debated and dialogued as a state.”

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