Do desegregation provisions impact open enrollment programs?

Do desegregation provisions impact open enrollment programs?

Last updated: October 2018

Open enrollment policies allow a student to transfer to a public school of his or her choice. There are two basic types of open enrollment policies.

  • Intradistrict: Students transfer to another school within their resident school district.
  • Interdistrict: Students transfer a school outside of their resident district.

Depending on the state, open-enrollment policies are mandatory, voluntary, or both. 

  • Mandatory policies require districts to participate in the program.
  • Voluntary policies allow districts to choose whether to participate in open enrollment, often allowing districts the discretion to enter into transfer agreements with other districts.
  • States with both mandatory and voluntary policies usually require mandatory open enrollment in low-performing schools or districts, in defined regions of the state or in other specific circumstances while allowing voluntary open enrollment in the rest of the state.

View the full open enrollment database here.  


Do desegregation provisions impact open enrollment programs?
Alabama No open enrollment policies.
Alaska Not addressed.
Arizona No

Citations: Arizona S.B. 1254 (2017)
Arkansas Desegregation court orders or court-approved plans have precedence over the open enrollment statutes. School districts claiming a conflict under an order or plan must provide proof of a genuine conflict.

Citations: Ark. Code Ann. § 6-18-1906, § 6-18-227

Code Ark. R. 005.23.8-7.00
California Under both voluntary and mandatory provisions, sending or receiving districts may prohibit a transfer if it would negatively impact a court-ordered or voluntary desegregation plan or the racial and ethnic balance of the district, not including transfers for children of active-duty military personnel.

Citations: Cal. Educ. Code § 48355, § 48307
Colorado Schools and school districts may deny enrollment under open enrollment policies to maintain compliance with a desegregation plan.

Citations: Colo. Rev. Stat. § 22-36-101
Connecticut School districts may cooperate with other school districts to correct racial imbalances. Additionally, the purpose of the state's mandatory interdistrict open enrollment policy is to reduce racial, ethnic and economic isolation or preserve racial and ethnic balance.

Citations: Conn Gen. Stat. Ann § 10-226c, § 10-226h
Delaware Open enrollment must not conflict with a court-ordered desegregation plan. If it would, districts must establish a number of majority and minority group students who may transfer into or out of the district.

Citations: Del. Code Ann. tit. 14, § 405, § 406
District of Columbia Not addressed.
Florida Participating districts must adhere to federal desegregation requirements and must maintain socioeconomic, demographic, and racial balance.

Citations: Fla. Stat. Ann. § 1002.31
Georgia Open enrollment programs must not interfere with any desegregation plans that are or may be in effect.

Citations: Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-294
Hawaii Not addressed.
Idaho Not addressed.
Illinois Not addressed.
Indiana Not addressed.
Iowa Sending districts that are subject to voluntary or court-ordered desegregation plans may deny transfer requests if the transfers would affect plan implementation. Districts must give priority to transfer requests that would facilitate implementation of a voluntary or court-ordered desegregation plan. School boards may adopt and implement a voluntary diversity plan that affects open enrollment transfers, although the following student groups are granted an exception to the diversity plan: 
  • Siblings of currently enrolled students.
  • Students who have moved out of the resident district but wish to remain in the district as an open enrollment student.
  • Students transferring due to harassment.
  • Students transferring for health reasons that cannot be adequately addressed by the resident district.


Citations: Iowa Code Ann. § 282.18

Iowa Admin. Code r. 281-17.3, r. 281-17.6, r. 281-17.14
Kansas Not addressed.
Kentucky Not addressed.
Louisiana Mandatory, low-performing schools: Students may not enroll in a receiving school if it would violate a court order. School districts designated as academically unacceptable and under a desegregation plan are "not exempt from offering students the option to transfer" but must first review the plan and possibly seek court approval for transfers.

Citations: La. Rev. Stat. § 17:4035.1
28 La. Admin. Code Pt. XI, 2505
Maine Not addressed.
Maryland No open enrollment policies.
Massachusetts The receiving school committee of any city, town, or regional district may accept transfer students from a sending district with student racial imbalance if the receiving school district's committee has voted to accept out-of-district students. 

Citations: Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. 76 § 12A
Michigan If the school district is subject to a court-ordered desegregation plan, the district may prohibit students from transferring in or out.

Citations: Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 388.1705, § 388.1705c
Minnesota Receiving districts with achievement and integration plans may accept transfer applications at any time, although the districts are still allowed to limit enrollment. Districts must give priority to applications related to an approved integration and achievement plan.

Citations: Minn. Stat. Ann. § 124D.03
Mississippi Not addressed
Missouri Whenever a school district is under a federal court-ordered desegregation directive, open enrollment options are subject to the approval of the court of continuing jurisdiction, and the court order must govern.

Citations: Mo. Ann. Stat. § 162.1059
Montana Not addressed
Nebraska In a learning community, diversity plans must provide for open enrollment between all buildings and diversity is based upon students' socioeconomic status.

Citations: Neb. Rev. Stat. § 79-2110
Nevada Not addressed
New Hampshire Not addressed
New Jersey Districts applying to become a choice district must submit an analysis of the potential impact of the choice program on student diversity and a plan for maintaining diversity, but these plans may not supersede a court-ordered desegregation plan. To maintain student population diversity, the commissioner may restrict the number of choice students from a sending district, restrict a receiving district's ability to accept choice students, or revoke approval of the choice district.

Citations: N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:36B-17
New Mexico Not addressed.
New York Districts seeking to participate in the voluntary interdistrict urban-suburban transfer program must submit data that the program will reduce racial isolation by allowing minority students, nonminority students, or both to transfer between the suburban and urban districts.

Citations: N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 8, § 175.24
North Carolina No open enrollment policies.
North Dakota Not addressed.
Ohio Under both voluntary and mandatory open enrollment, districts' open enrollment plans must have policies and procedures to ensure racial balance is maintained.

Voluntary: To maintain an appropriate racial balance, a sending district may object to a student enrolling in another district.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3313.97, § 3313.98
Ohio Admin. Code 3301-48-01, 3301-48-02
Oklahoma Not addressed.
Oregon Not addressed.
Pennsylvania Not addressed.
Rhode Island Not addressed.
South Carolina Not addressed.
South Dakota Not addressed.
Tennessee Student transfers must be exercised within the limitations of any existing court order or plan developed to comply with the state or federal constitution.

Citations: Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-3104
Texas Not addressed.
Utah Local school boards' standards for accepting or rejecting transfer applications may include maintaining heterogeneous student populations to avoid violation of constitutional or statutory rights of students.

Citations: Utah Code Ann. § 53G-6-403
Vermont Not addressed.
Virginia Any local board under a court-order to maintain racial balance must maintain that balance when accommodating preference in student assignment.

Citations: Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-269.1
Washington A sending district may deny an interdistrict transfer request if the transfer would adversely affect the sending district's existing desegregation plan.

Citations: Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.225.220
West Virginia Not addressed.
Wisconsin A district must reject any application for transfer into or out of the district if the transfer would increase racial imbalance in the district. Student transfers resulting from a plan implemented by a district to reduce racial imbalance are eligible for state aid. However, in 2007, the Wisconsin attorney general issued an opinion in which he concluded that the provision is unconstitutional per the United States Supreme Court case, Parents Involved in Community Schools, et al. v. Seattle School District.

Citations: Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.51
Court ruling: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/misc/oag/recent/oag4_07.pdf
Wyoming Not addressed.


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