Open enrollment is an integral part of state public school choice policies. These policies allow a student to transfer to a public school of their choice. State policy addresses both intradistrict choice in which students attend schools within their resident district and interdistrict choice in which students attend schools in a receiving (nonresident) school district. Policies may be voluntary or mandatory and states may choose to prioritize specific student groups for open enrollment programs. States have significant policy levers at their disposal to expand or limit open enrollment options for students. Those options can be leveraged as a means to increase access to high-performing schools and academic programs, facilitate integration and address geographic challenges.

Education Commission of the States researched open enrollment policies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia to provide this comprehensive resource. Research focused on state statute and regulations specifically; so it is possible that state programs established through state board action, executive order or court order are not captured here. While charter schools and other innovative school models, such as magnet schools and innovation schools, typically draw students from across attendance zones and school district boundaries, those policies are not captured in this 50-state comparison. For additional information on enrollment provisions for charter schools, consult the 50-State Comparison of Charter School Policies.

Click on the questions below for 50-State Comparisons showing how all states approach specific open enrollment policies. View a specific state’s approach by going to the state profiles page.

50-State Comparisons

  1. Does the state permit intradistrict open enrollment?
  2. Is intradistrict open enrollment mandatory or voluntary? 
  3. Does the state permit interdistrict open enrollment?
  4. Is interdistrict open enrollment mandatory or voluntary?
  5. Are open enrollment programs subject to desegregation provisions?
  6. Which student groups are prioritized in open enrollment programs?
  7. Who is responsible for student transportation?
  8. Does the state have specific enrollment provisions for military-connected youth?
  9. Does the state have specific enrollment provisions for students in foster care?
  10. State education agency open enrollment webpage.
  11. All data points for all states.

Key Takeaways

  • 27 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have state policies explicitly permitting intradistrict open enrollment.
  • 43 states have state policies explicitly permitting interdistrict open enrollment.
  • 19 states and the District of Columbia require intradistrict open enrollment, while 11 states and Puerto Rico have voluntary programs.
  • 24 states require interdistrict open enrollment, while 28 states have voluntary programs.
  • A handful of states prioritize students who qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch or students in low-performing schools for admission, including California and Colorado.  
  • Some states explicitly use open enrollment as a means for school integration, including Connecticut and Nebraska.
  • In a few states, open enrollment is a function of geographic access to schools. For example, Georgia and Montana both require open enrollment for students facing lengthy transportation time or geographic barriers to attending their assigned schools.

Related Resources 

Key Issue: School Choice 

Open Enrollment Quick Guide 

State Policy Options to Promote K-12 Integration 

State Information Request: Military Child Enrollment 


 PUBLISHED: March 8, 2022

 AUTHOR(S): , ,

 RESOURCE TYPE:

 EDUCATION LEVEL:

 STATE(S): Nationwide

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