August 2, 2017
The school district of choice provisions in Education Code sections 48300-48317 were scheduled to "sunset" (become inoperative) on July 1, 2017. On June 27, Governor Brown signed urgency legislation in the Education Trailer Bill (Statutes of 2017, chapter 15 (Assembly Bill 99)), which extends the provisions until July 1, 2023. The bill also revised many of the provisions.
A school district governing board that elects to accept transfers must, by resolution, determine the number of transfers it will accept and must accept all students who apply until the district is at maximum capacity. If applications exceed capacity, selection occurs by random drawing at a regularly scheduled public board meeting. (Education Code § 48301.)
Selection of students is an unbiased process that prohibits inquiry into or consideration of factors such as academic and athletic performance, physical condition, English proficiency, legally protected characteristics, and family income (except to determine priority for students eligible for free or reduced-price meals.) (Id.) The school district of choice may not prohibit transfer of a student based on classification—for example, as an English learner or student with special needs. (Education Code § 48303.)
A school district of choice must post application information on its website, including forms, transfer timelines, and an explanation of the selection process. Communications about transfer opportunities must be available in all languages the district of residence uses for notices. By July 1, 2018, to continue enrolling students, a district of choice must register with the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the county board of education. (Id.) Beginning with the 2018-19 school year, the Department of Education will investigate complaints regarding a district of choice that operates without registering or providing the required data. (Education Code § 48317.)
Siblings of children already in attendance in the district remain the first priority for enrollment. The second priority is now students eligible for free or reduced-price meals, and the third priority is now children of military personnel. (Education Code § 48306.) A district of residence cannot prohibit the transfer of a student with an active military duty parent and cannot adopt policies that block or discourage students from applying for transfer to a district of choice. (Education Code § 48307.)
The application deadline remains January 1 for the next school year. The deadline for final written notice of transfer acceptance and rejection is now February 15 (changed from May 15.) The board has until May 1 to fill vacancies on a wait list, and no students are accepted after May 1. If an application is rejected, the determination must be recorded in the board minutes.
By February 15, the district of choice must report to the district of residence the number of students accepted, by school and grade level, with final notice of these numbers and the students’ names by May 2. If a district of choice stops accepting transfers, high school transfer students may remain enrolled and attend the same school until graduation. (Education Code § 48308.)
The funding formula for a district of choice that is a basic aid district has changed. As before, ADA apportionment is credited to the district of choice. In a basic aid district, the apportionment is now 25% of the LCFF. (Education Code § 48310.)
On request of a parent, a district of choice may provide transfer student transportation assistance to the extent it provides transportation to other students. The bill removed a reference to student transportation assistance "within the boundaries of the district." (Education Code § 48311.)
A district of choice must make public announcements regarding its schools, programs, policies, and procedures, including transportation options, if applicable, during the enrollment period. (Education Code § 48312.)
As before, each district of choice must keep records of all requests for transfer and their disposition, including student demographics such as eligibility for free or reduced-price meals, race, ethnicity, gender, self-reported socioeconomic status, and school district of residence for students transferring in and out of the district. The State Superintendent must post a list of school districts of choice and school choice programs on the state website. (Education Code § 48313.)
The revisions to already-complex district of choice provisions require districts to review their policies and practices. Because the new requirements are in effect now, for the 2017-18 school year, districts should begin this review immediately to be prepared for the January 1, 2018 application deadline and the February 15 deadline for notifying parents of final decisions. Our team of Education Law attorneys can assist districts in meeting these challenges.