Open Enrollment Policies: State Profile

Open Enrollment Policies: State Profile - Wisconsin

Last updated: October 2017

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 school 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.  Please contact Micah Ann Wixom (303.299.3673 or mwixom@ecs.org) with questions or comments.


Open Enrollment Survey 2017
Does the state have open enrollment programs? Yes, voluntary intradistrict and mandatory interdistrict. All school districts must adopt policies for accepting and rejecting interdistrict transfers and determine the number of spaces available. Criteria may include availability of space in schools, programs, classes, or grades. Districts may also consider class size limits, student-teacher ratios, and enrollment projects. Sending districts may limit the number or percentage of resident students transferring to other school districts.

Citations: Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.51

Do desegregation provisions impact open enrollment programs? 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

Does the state set priorities for districts to follow when accepting students for open enrollment? Yes. If there are more applications than spaces available, a receiving district must create a waiting list and accept students from this list on a random basis after giving preference to currently-enrolled students and their siblings. School districts may give preference to residents of the school district who live outside the school's attendance area. If the receiving district is a union high school district, preference must be given to students who are attending the receiving district's underlying elementary school district.

Citations: Wis. Stat. Ann. § 118.51

Who is responsible for student transportation? Parent are responsible for transportation, but receiving districts must provide transportation for students with a disability. Low-income parents may apply to state for reimbursement. Districts may enter into agreements to provide transportation for out-of-district students. If either the sending or receiving district operates a program of intradistrict transfers, that district is responsible for the cost of transportation. A district may contract directly for transportation or reimburse another district for the cost. A district may provide transportation for a student attending a public school outside his or her attendance area of residence.

Citations: Wis.Stat. Ann. § 118.51, § 121.54


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