Education Commission of the States has researched open-enrollment policies in all states to provide this comprehensive resource. Click on the questions below for 50-state comparisons showing how all states approach specific open-enrollment policies. Or, choose to view a specific state’s approach by going to the individual state profiles page.

Key takeaways

  • Open-enrollment policies allow a student to transfer to the public school of his or her choice. There are two basic types of open-enrollment policies:
    • Intradistrict allows students to transfer to another school within the student’s resident school district.
    • Interdistrict allows students to transfer a school outside of the student’s resident district.
  • Depending on the state, open-enrollment policies are either mandatory or voluntary.
    • 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.
  • Several states have both mandatory and voluntary policies, usually requiring mandatory open enrollment in low-performing schools or districts, in defined regions of the state or in other specific circumstances and allowing voluntary open enrollment in the rest of the state.
  • The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) allows students attending a low-performing school to transfer to another school that has not been identified for school improvement. However, some states – Illinois and Georgia, for example – may have been exempted from this requirement in their NCLB waiver
  • Some states have mandatory open enrollment policies only for low-performing schools or districts, essentially codifying federal requirements in their state policy.
  • In a few states, open enrollment is a function of geographic access to schools. For example, Montana and Georgia both require open enrollment for students with lengthy transportation time to their assigned schools or if students face geographic barriers to attending their assigned school.

50-state comparisons 

  1. Does the state have open enrollment programs?
  2. Do desegregation provisions impact open enrollment programs?
  3. Does the state set priorities for districts to follow when accepting students for open enrollment?
  4. Who is responsible for student transportation?
  5. Open Enrollment 50-State Report – All Data Points

Staff contact
Micah Ann Wixom

 PUBLISHED: October 25, 2015

 AUTHOR(S): Emily Workman



 STATE(S): Nationwide

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