Quad Cities schools feel the effects of new enrollment rules

Iowa enrollment rules affect Quad Cities schools
Published: Aug. 28, 2023 at 11:08 PM CDT
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ELDRIDGE, Iowa (KWQC) - An era of school choice in Iowa began two years ago when the state passed a law allowing parents to freely open enroll their children in and out of their respective districts.

Last year, Davenport schools removed their limitation on open enrollment out of their district. This decision kickstarted movement between districts in the Quad Cities. According to Iowa’s education department, North Scott schools nearly doubled their net gain in open enrollment putting a strain on a district still dealing with a teacher shortage.

Between the July and August board meetings, 31 students were enrolled in North Scott under the new rules. Superintendent, Joe Stutting, says a lack of a deadline is making it difficult to prepare for the new school year. He added, the district has been in contact with elected officials to push towards including a deadline for spring or early summer.

“It’s in the state’s best interest. They had a deadline for the savings accounts this year,” said Stutting, “we should be matching that up with fiscal years. I would hope so, so we can plan accordingly.”

Communities within the North Scott district are actively trying to lure new families and businesses to the area. Eldridge added a HyVee and YMCA. There are also ongoing new housing developments in progress. Some parents believe allowing students from other districts to enroll in theirs will take away from available resources. The superintendent says they do have caps at some grade levels and students living in the district will never be turned away because of open enrollment.

“It’s a better problem to have too many students and how to figure out how to accommodate that,” said Stutting, “than not enough students. Students drive budgets, not tax base. Students drive budgets.”

Stutting added that he believes urban sprawl is one of the key drivers for movement between districts in the Quad Cities. He says North Scott schools still have room for growth as enrollment remains below 1979 levels that peaked at over 4,100 students.