Having a choice about where you attend school is great. However, choice in and of itself is not enough. There are still barriers to attending certain schools like transportation or a limited number of seats. But, in many cases, the largest barrier to school choice is the enrollment process itself.
In a traditional enrollment model, students have to travel around the city or cyberspace filling out applications. Thus, in many places that offer more choices families will inevitably find more hoops to jump through as well. Indianapolis has now streamlined this process by requiring all charter schools to use their common-enrollment system, Enroll Indy.
Enroll Indy is essentially a lottery-based system that allows families to apply and register for schools through one website.
There are people who are against common-enrollment systems for the same reasons they oppose choice in general. The research is fairly clear: Common enrollment systems clear up much of the confusion and strips away at a lot of the inequality that is inherent to the school enrollment process.
As a teacher, I can tell you that it is a lot easier on our end too. I have worked in Indianapolis for almost a decade. I spent my first six or seven summers here helping parents play the enrollment game. Helping them fill out paper applications, transferring them to our in-house digital system which never seemed to work properly. Then of course when school started, upwards of 15% of our students didn’t show up because, under the regular decentralized enrollment system, enterprising parents that start early can hold multiple spots at different schools and choose the best one in the fall…thus depriving disadvantaged families of open spots as they are not likely to move their children just because they get a waitlist call on the 5th day of school.
There are always gaps in any system. If the schools in an area are no good, then a common enrollment system can’t serve as a gateway to a better education. However, if you believe that there are quality options around the city and that families should have access to those options then you must concede that requiring schools to use Enroll Indy is a positive development.