The Ultimate Guide to a Public School Transfer (Open Enrollment)

By: National School Choice Week Team

Last Upated: June 30, 2022

Tens of millions of kids across America attend traditional public schools across all 50 states. Maybe you went to one, or maybe your child attends a traditional public school. Perhaps you even decided to rent or buy a home or apartment because you wanted your child to attend the traditional public school nearby. But what if you want to make a public school transfer?

Most students who attend traditional public schools are assigned to attend these schools by school district officials – based on school boundary maps and zoning. These schools are tuition-free and must accept all students, regardless of their previous academic performance or special learning needs.

But did you know that traditional public schools can also be schools of choice? You might just be able to choose a traditional public school outside of your neighborhood or zone, and still pay no tuition! As you’ll see below, most states have rules allowing for school transfers, boundary exceptions, or some type of public school choice, which is often referred to as open enrollment. These rules make it possible for parents to choose a great public school for them, whether it’s in their neighborhood or across town!

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What is Public School Open Enrollment?

Open enrollment is an important form of public school choice. It allows parents to choose public schools outside of their assigned neighborhood. That way, families can choose the best free public school for their child, even if it’s not in their zip code.

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Each state has different open enrollment laws for public schools. Allowing students to attend other traditional public schools within their assigned district is called intradistrict enrollment. Allowing students to attend public schools outside their district is called interdistrict enrollment. All 50 states permit public school transfers in at least some cases, but access to open enrollment varies widely by state.

So, if open enrollment is available to you, you can take advantage of it by visiting multiple schools and discovering which is the best school of choice for your family. You can use our free Schools Near Me tool to find various public schools to consider. After all, public schools aren’t all the same. They may differ in learning methods and one may just “feel different” than another to you.

Traditional public school students work on robotics

Common Questions about Traditional Public Schools

How do parents feel about public school open enrollment?

According to recent polling by Morning Consult, more than 75% of school parents say they support students being able to select and transfer to a public school of their choice in another district. 

How many public school districts are in the U.S.? And, how many public school teachers are there?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are more than 13,400 public school districts in the U.S. And, there are more than 3.1 million teachers in public schools.

What public school am I zoned for?

Often, your zip code determines what school district you are in. If you are unsure, you can search for your school district. Once you know your district, you can visit the district website to find your assigned school. Don’t forget that there may be open enrollment options that allow you to attend any school in the district, or even schools outside of the district!

Coyote Springs Elementary School students make silly faces

How are public schools managed?

Traditional public schools are run by local school districts. These school districts are usually overseen by elected school boards. All public schools must follow education laws in the state. Each state has its own teacher certification policies. Usually, all or most teachers in public schools must be certified by the state to teach.

How much does public school cost?

Traditional public schools don’t charge tuition or entrance fees. The costs for public schools are paid by taxpayers in the form of local, state, and federal taxes. You can search for what your public school spends at Project Nickel. You can also explore the average per-pupil spending in your state’s public schools below.

How much is a public school teacher salary?

As of the 2020-2021 school year, the average public school teacher salary was about $65,090.

Public Schools of Choice in Your State

Every state has traditional public schools, but does your state offer open enrollment, which allows you to choose schools outside your neighborhood, zone, or district? Check out your state’s parent guide or scroll below to learn whether you can use open enrollment to make a public school transfer. You can also contact your local district to learn more.

In 13 states parents may select any traditional public school for their child, in any school district.

In 18 states, there are at least some situations where schools are required to participate in open enrollment. For example, some states guarantee open enrollment to families who wish to transfer out of a low-performing school, or families who live too far from their assigned school. In these states, parents meeting certain requirements are guaranteed choice. Open enrollment may be optional in other cases.

An additional 19 states have allowed districts and schools to decide whether to participate in open enrollment. In these cases, families must request and receive school district approval to use open enrollment. Access to public school transfers in these states vary widely – in some, transfers are readily available while in others, transfers are rarely permitted.

Sources: Education Commission of the States, 2022; Independent Research by NSCW

 

Alabama:

In most states, families have some “open enrollment” options that allow parents to choose traditional public schools outside of the schools assigned to their children by their districts. In Alabama, families can transfer their children if they are zoned for a “failing school.” In other cases, if you choose a traditional public school, it will likely need to be the school assigned by your district.

The average per-pupil spending in Alabama public schools is $10,116. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Alabama State Department of Education.

 

Alaska:

Alaska has limited open enrollment laws for public schools. What this means is that parents of students who are assigned to a particular neighborhood school may in some cases be able to transfer their children to another school in their district. For example, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District has an online application portal where families can apply for a school outside their zoned “attendance area.” In other cases, children may be required to attend the school assigned to them by their district. Contact your school district to learn more.

The average per-pupil spending in Alaska public schools is $18,313. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development.

 

Arizona:

Arizona has unrestricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school in Arizona, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. You can take advantage of this option by visiting multiple public schools near you and discovering which is the best fit for your family.

Each district’s open enrollment policies must be available in English and Spanish, and must include transportation provisions. These include transportation up to 20 miles each way for students with a disability or Individualized Education Program (IEP), and can include other students, too. For example, you can read about the open enrollment process in the Scottsdale Unified School District.

The average per-pupil spending in Arizona public schools is $8,785. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Arizona Department of Education and Office of the Governor – School Choice.

 

We’re about educating every kid. We’re a co-teaching school. We’re an inclusive school. All of our kids get the opportunity, third through sixth grade, to be gifted and talented or what we would refer to as enriched. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions that for a good education you have to skim the top and only have those kids attend the schools. – Candice Stump, Coyote Springs Elementary School, Arizona

 

Arkansas:

Arkansas has limited open enrollment laws. In Arkansas, there are some limits on open enrollment, like seat capacity, but families may be able to transfer to a public school of choice beyond their neighborhood school. In particular, Arkansas families can use open enrollment to transfer from a public school in academic distress to a public school that is not in academic distress. If you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your local district.

Generally, transportation is not covered by the school you use open enrollment to select, unless that school district is under facilities distress or a special agreement is made between the receiving and sending districts.

The average per-pupil spending in Arkansas public schools is $10,345. Find out more at the Arkansas Department of Education or view a school choice transfer application to get started.

 

California:

In California, parents of students assigned to low-performing schools may be able to transfer their children to another school based on the state’s limited open enrollment laws. School districts in California can also set their own open enrollment policies, so parents can check with their local district to learn more. As a real-world example, the William S. Hart Union High School District only accepts transfers within its district for a few student groups, including victims of bullying, foster youth, and children of active military.

Parents can request that the school they select through open enrollment provides transportation assistance.

The average per-pupil spending in California public schools is $14,031. Find out more about public schools in your state at the California Department of Education.

 

Colorado:

Colorado has unrestricted open enrollment for public schools. What this means is that you may be able to send your child to any public school in Colorado, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. You can take advantage of this important option by visiting multiple public schools near you and discovering which is the best fit for your family.

As a real-world example of the transfer process, you may wish to view the online application for transfers within the Cherry Creek School District. Schools may prioritize the transfer requests of certain student groups, such as students wishing to transfer out of low-performing schools.

The average per-pupil spending in Colorado is $11,602. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Colorado Department of Education.

 

Connecticut:

Connecticut has restricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that parents in some Connecticut cities may be able to choose traditional public schools outside of their districts. This applies in Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, and New London, and may apply in other cities. Transfers within districts are sometimes an option as well. As a real-world example, you may wish to view the intradistrict transfer application for Norwalk Public Schools

If you live in an area of Connecticut with open enrollment, you can take advantage of this option by visiting multiple public schools near you and discovering which is the best fit for your family. Local boards of education decide whether to provide transportation for students participating in open enrollment.

The average per-pupil spending in Connecticut is $21,346. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Connecticut State Department of Education.

 

Delaware:

Delaware has unrestricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school in Delaware, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. As long as the school has room, your child should be accepted. You can take advantage of this valuable option by visiting multiple public schools near you and discovering which is the best fit for your family. Parents are responsible for transportation of students participating in open enrollment.

Families interested in submitting choice applications for participating public school districts in Delaware can do so online at SchoolChoiceDE. The deadline for applications is usually around mid-January for the upcoming school year.

The average per-pupil spending in Delaware is $17,235. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Department of Education.

 

Florida:

Florida has unrestricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school in Florida, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. Each school must post information about capacity and how to apply on its website.

For a real-world example, check out Polk County Public Schools’ process for open enrollment. Generally, parents are responsible for transportation of students participating in open enrollment.

The average per-pupil spending in Florida is $9,937. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Florida Department of Education.

 

Georgia:

Georgia has restricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that Georgia families can send their child to any public school within their school district as long as the school has room. Also, in some cases, families can choose public schools outside their district; contact your local school district to see if this is an option for you.

For a real-world example of the transfer process and timeline, check out Atlanta Public Schools’ application process. Note that parents are usually responsible for transportation of students participating in open enrollment.

The average per-pupil spending in Georgia is $11,707. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Georgia Department of Education.

 

Hawaii:

In Hawaii, the state operates as a single school district divided into 15 “complex areas.” Hawaii parents should contact the state education agency about its open enrollment policies, and whether they can consider schools outside their assigned area. A “geographic exception” transfer may be allowed, for example, if a student wishes to attend a public school with a special program of study not offered in their home school

The average per-pupil spending in Hawaii is $16,564. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Hawaii State Department of Education.

 

Idaho:

Idaho has unrestricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school in Idaho regardless of where you live or where the school is located. You can take advantage of this valuable option by visiting multiple public schools near you and discovering which is the best fit for your family. For a real-world example of the transfer process, check out Boise School District’s application guidelines. Parents are responsible for transportation of students participating in open enrollment. 

Also, don’t forget that through the state’s Advanced Opportunities program, every public school student in Idaho is allocated $4,125 to use in grades 7-12. These funds can be used for dual credits, Advanced Placement Exam fees, professional certifications, workforce training, or other qualified expenses.

The average per-pupil spending in Idaho is $8,272. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Idaho Department of Education.

 

Illinois:

Illinois has fairly flexible open enrollment laws. In many cases, you can visit multiple schools and select the one best for you. Illinois parents may be able to choose any traditional public school within their district but should check with their local district to find out more. In general, Illinois families cannot transfer to public schools outside their district.

For a real-world example of the transfer process, check out the application materials for intradistrict transfers in the Community Consolidated School District 15.

The average per-pupil spending in Illinois is $17,293. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Illinois State Board of Education.

 

Indiana:

In Indiana, parents have restricted open enrollment. What this means is that Indianapolis Public Schools requires schools within the district to allow transfers. And in other districts, students can request to transfer to any public school of choice, provided the school has a policy allowing for open enrollment. For a real-world example, check out Noblesville Schools’ transfer process

In particular, parents can request that their child transfer to another district if there are crowded conditions at their current school or if another school district offers curriculum important to their child’s vocational aspirations. If you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your local district to learn more.

The average per-pupil spending in Indiana is $10,935. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Indiana Department of Education.

 

Iowa:

Iowa has unrestricted open enrollment for public school. Based on Iowa’s recently-expanded laws, families can apply to any traditional public school, even one in another district, at any time during the year. Of course, schools may deny a request if there is not enough classroom space. For a real-world example of the transfer process, check out Davenport Community Schools’ open enrollment application.

Some students participating in open enrollment, including those meeting certain income guidelines, are provided transportation to their public school of choice by their assigned district.

The average per-pupil spending in Iowa is $11,958. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Iowa Department of Education and Iowa Legal Aid.

 

Kansas:

Currently, some school districts in Kansas may allow open enrollment. Since districts currently set their own open enrollment policies in Kansas, parents should check with their local school district for more information. When a student participates in open enrollment, the two school districts must work out a transportation plan to share costs amongst themselves.

Open enrollment will soon be expanding in Kansas! A bill passed in 2022 will allow students to transfer to any public school district with the room to take them, starting in 2024.

The average per-pupil spending in Kansas is $12,697. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Kansas State Department of Education.

 

Kentucky:

Kentucky has more than 170 public school districts and flexible open enrollment for public school. What this means is that in most cases you can choose to send your child to a public school in your district other than the one you have been assigned. Additionally, as of July 2022, all Kentucky families are able to apply to public schools in other districts. If you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your local district to learn more.

Open enrollment is a valuable school choice. Just keep in mind the deadline and application process for any public school you are interested in transferring into. For example, open enrollment in Scott County Schools takes place in early January each year for the upcoming fall.

If you live in Jefferson County, note that the large district’s assignment plan will be dramatically changing starting in the 2023-2024 school year. “Choice zones” will be established to give families more options near their homes and expand magnet offerings.

The average per-pupil spending in Kentucky is $11,397. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Kentucky Department of Education.

 

Louisiana:

In most cases in Louisiana, each district decides whether it will participate in open enrollment. So, Louisiana parents should check with their local school district if they wish to participate in open enrollment. The state only requires districts to offer open enrollment in certain circumstances, such as when students wish to transfer from a school in academic distress to a school that is not in academic distress. New Orleans families wishing to transfer schools can find information and apply online at Nola Public Schools.

Students participating in open enrollment are provided transportation by their public school of choice if that school is closer to the student’s residence than their assigned school.

The average per-pupil spending in Louisiana is $11,843. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Louisiana Department of Education.

 

Maine:

In Maine, the state allows districts to set their own open enrollment policies. So, Maine parents should check with their district if they would like to transfer their child to a different public school. For instance, Portland Public Schools District only allows families to choose a school “out of neighborhood” in a few circumstances, such as when there has been documented harassment at the assigned school. 

If the reason for a family participating in open enrollment in another district is because their district does not offer a school, their district provides transportation. In other situations, the parents are responsible for transportation.

The average per-pupil spending in Maine is $14,892. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Maine Department of Education.

 

Maryland:

Most states have some form of open enrollment. Unfortunately, Maryland only offers public open enrollment in a few circumstances. For example, a student may be able to request a school transfer if they move during the school year, if they are a child of an employee at the school they wish to transfer into, or if a health professional recommends a different school environment.

For a real-world example of the transfer process, check out the “Change of School Assignment Booklet” for Montgomery Public Schools, Maryland’s largest district.

The average per-pupil spending in Maryland is $15,489. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Maryland State Department of Education.

 

Massachusetts:

In Massachusetts, each district decides whether it will participate in open enrollment. For the 2021-2022 school year, 170 Massachusetts districts (53% of districts statewide) chose to participate. Some of these districts, however, only allowed transfers for certain grades. If you are interested in transferring your child to a different public school than you are assigned, you should talk to your local school district to learn whether it is available for you.

For an example of the transfer process and timeline in your state, check out Boston Public Schools’ transfer guidelines. Parents are generally responsible for transportation when their student is participating in open enrollment, unless the transfer addresses racial imbalances or the student qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch.

The average per-pupil spending in Massachusetts is $18,733. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

 

Michigan:

In Michigan, there is restricted open enrollment. Depending on the district and their school’s performance, parents may have the option to transfer their child to a different public school. If so, they are responsible for transporting their child to that school.

Since Michigan districts set their own guidelines, dates and application procedures for school transfers can vary greatly. For example, Farmington Public Schools’ application deadline was January 28, 2022 for the 2022-2023 school year. 

The average per-pupil spending in Michigan is $13,072. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Michigan Department of Education.

 

Minnesota:

Minnesota offers some open enrollment. Parents can choose a traditional public school outside of their district based on the state’s open enrollment laws, and also may be able to choose another school within their district, depending on their local school board. In the 2020-2021 school year, about 10% of Minnesota students used open enrollment! 

Since no two public schools are exactly the same, open enrollment can valuably extend a family’s educational options and help them find the best match for their child. If you are interested in this choice, note that transfer applications are usually due by mid-January for the following fall. In most transfers to schools in a different district, the receiving school district provides transportation once the student is within the district border, and can reimburse income-eligible students for their travel there.

The average per-pupil spending in Minnesota is $13,603. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Minnesota Department of Education.

 

Mississippi:

In Mississippi, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies; the state only requires districts to offer open enrollment if parents live 30 miles away from their child’s assigned school. For a real-world example of the transfer process, check out Jackson Public Schools’ guidelines for applying for an in-district or district-to-district transfer.

When an agreement between school districts is made allowing a student to participate in open enrollment, it must include transportation provisions.

The average per-pupil spending in Mississippi is $9,653. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Mississippi Department of Education.

 

Missouri:

In Missouri, parents have restricted open enrollment. Some Missouri parents, such as those who live in school districts that have lost state accreditation, may be able to choose a traditional public school in another district for their child. In some cases, including when transferring from a school that is unaccredited, the district provides transportation.

In general, Missouri districts can set their own guidelines for transfers within districts. So, dates and application procedures for transfers can vary. For an example of the transfer process and timeline, check out Springfield Public Schools’ guidelines.

The average per-pupil spending in Missouri is $11,239. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

 

Montana:

In general in Montana, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies; open enrollment refers to whether parents can choose to send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. Montana only requires districts to offer open enrollment if parents or guardians live too far from their child’s assigned school.

If you wish to make a public school transfer, contact your local school district to see if this is an option for you. For an example of what the transfer process may look like, check out Missoula County Public Schools’ guidelines for attending a high school other than the one you are zoned for. When an agreement between school districts is made allowing a student to participate in open enrollment, it includes transportation provisions.

The average per-pupil spending in Montana is $12,101. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

 

Nebraska:

Nebraska has flexible open enrollment for public schools. What this means is that you are likely able to send your child to any public school of choice in Nebraska, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. You can read the Nebraska Department of Education’s answers to frequently asked questions about switching school districts in your state.

Transportation is typically the responsibility of the parents or provided by the receiving district for a fee unless the student is eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, part of a diversity focus program, or a student with learning disabilities, in which case transportation is typically free.

The average per-pupil spending in Nebraska is $12,939. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Nebraska Department of Education.

 

Nevada:

In general in Nevada, each district can set its own open enrollment policies. So, Nevada parents should check with their local district if they would like to transfer their child. If they choose to participate in open enrollment, the school to which they were assigned will cover transportation costs.

For an example of the transfer process and timeline in Nevada, check out Clark County School District’s change of school assignment application.

The average per-pupil spending in Nevada is $9,814. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Nevada Department of Education.

 

New Hampshire:

In New Hampshire, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies. New Hampshire parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school than the one they are assigned should contact their local school district to see if this is an option. In 2021, the state made this process more defined for parents if their student is experiencing “manifest educational hardship.”

For a real-world example of the transfer process and timeline in New Hampshire, check out Kearsarge Regional School District’s guidelines for transfer requests.

If the public school of choice is within the same district, transportation is provided. If it is in a different school district, parents are responsible for transportation.

The average per-pupil spending in New Hampshire is $17,900. Find out more about public schools in your state at the New Hampshire Department of Education.

 

New Jersey:

In New Jersey, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies. New Jersey parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school than the one they are assigned should contact their local school district or search choice districts at the New Jersey Department of Education. For the 2022-2023 school year, there are 122 participating choice districts! Each district has a unique choice application that families should submit directly to that district.

For students living farther than 2 or 2.5 miles from their public school of choice but closer than 20 miles, the sending district is responsible for transporting the child to their new school.

The average per-pupil spending in New Jersey is $20,670. Find out more about public schools in your state at the New Jersey Department of Education. Families in Newark may also wish to explore public schools using My Schools Newark.

 

New Mexico:

New Mexico has restricted open enrollment. In New Mexico, parents who live near low-performing schools may transfer their children to another school inside or outside their district. Parents in other circumstances should check with their local school district. Timing and procedures for open enrollment may vary by district. For a real-world example, check out Albuquerque Public Schools’ transfer guidelines.

If a student participating in open enrollment is choosing a different school within the same district, the district will provide transportation or reimburse parents’ costs. If the family selects a school in a different school district, parents are responsible for transportation.

The average per-pupil spending in New Mexico is $11,332. Find out more about public schools in your state at the New Mexico Public Education Department.

 

New York:

In New York, each district decides whether it will participate in open enrollment. Open enrollment is a valuable choice that refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located or what their zip code is. If you would like to participate in open enrollment, check with your local school district to see if this is available.

The New York City Department of Education lists several reasons families may request school transfers. These include an accessibility need, a sibling being at a different school, a travel hardship or move, or a safety concern.

The average per-pupil spending in New York is $25,519. Find out more about public schools in your state at the New York State Education Department.

 

North Carolina:

Most states have some form of open enrollment, which refers to whether parents can send their child to a public school other than their assigned school. Unfortunately, North Carolina families generally do not have open enrollment options.

There are, however, a few circumstances where a transfer might be possible. For example, a student may be able to request a school transfer if they move during the school year, if they are a child of an employee at the school they wish to transfer into, or if they are experiencing a unique hardship that would be mitigated by a transfer. For a real-world example, you may wish to check out Lenoir County Public Schools’ transfer request form.

The average per-pupil spending in North Carolina is $9,958. Find out more about public schools in your state at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

 

North Dakota:

In North Dakota, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies. North Dakota parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school than the one they are assigned should contact their local school district to see if this is an option. For an example of what the transfer process may look like, check out West Fargo Public Schools’ in-district transfer request guidelines.

In some cases, such as when a transferring student was a victim of violence, transportation assistance may be available

The average per-pupil spending in North Dakota is $14,242. Find out more about public schools in your state at the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

 

Ohio:

Ohio has restricted open enrollment for public school. Based on Ohio’s laws, school districts in Ohio must have policies allowing for in-district transfer applications. For example, check out Willoughby-Eastlake’s application form for transfers within the district. Annually, each district can choose whether to allow for transfers between districts. So, contact your local school district if you wish to participate in open enrollment.

In most cases, parents are responsible for transportation to the new public school of choice, or at least for getting their student to a regular bus stop along the school’s route. Low-income families or those participating in a court-approved desegregation plan may be reimbursed for transportation to that bus stop or provided transportation directly, respectively.

The average per-pupil spending in Ohio is $13,805. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Ohio Department of Education.

 

Oklahoma:

In Oklahoma, students can request a transfer to a school in any district, regardless of where they live. The state does allow districts to set capacity limits for transfer students, and sometimes spots are only available in certain grades. For an example of what the transfer process may look like, check out Norman Public Schools’ transfer guidelines. If their transfer request is denied, parents can appeal to the local school board to review the case.

If parents request it, their children can be transported by the public school of choice from a stop within that school’s school district, provided parents transport them to the district route. Alternatively, the assigned school district can create an agreement with the new school district to cooperate on transportation.

The average per-pupil spending in Oklahoma: $9,508. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

 

Oregon:

Unfortunately, Oregon currently has very limited open enrollment policies for public schools. The state of Oregon did establish temporary open enrollment between school districts in 2012 to support school choice, but the policy ended in 2019.

While open enrollment is not widely available to Oregon families, parents may still request an interdistrict transfer (which requires the consent of both the sending and receiving district). Some districts, such as Reynolds School District, also allow families to request to request an “area exception” for which school they attend within their district.

The average per-pupil spending in Oregon at the $12,855. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Oregon Department of Education.

 

Pennsylvania:

In Pennsylvania, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies. So, Pennsylvania parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school than the one they are assigned should contact their local school district.

For a real-world example, check out Lancaster School District’s guidelines for both intradistrict and interdistrict transfers.

The average per-pupil spending in Pennsylvania is $17,142. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

 

Rhode Island:

In Rhode Island, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies. Rhode Island parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school than the one they are assigned should contact their local school district to see if this is an option. In some cases, the state provides transportation for students who attend a school outside their city or town. 

The transfer process and timeline will vary by district. For a real-world example, check out North Providence School Department’s guidelines for transfers within the district.

The average per-pupil spending in Rhode Island is $16,857. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Rhode Island Department of Education.

 

South Carolina:

In South Carolina, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies. South Carolina parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school than the one they are assigned should contact their local school district to see if this is an option. As an example, Richland County School District One generally requires students to attend their zoned public school, but does allow for transfers in some cases, such as unique program offerings, childcare needs, and instances of hardship. 

In most cases, parents are in charge of transportation if they choose open enrollment in South Carolina.

The average per-pupil spending in South Carolina is $11,532. Find out more about public schools in your state at the South Carolina Department of Education.

 

South Dakota:

South Dakota has unrestricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school of choice in South Dakota, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. You can take advantage of this option by visiting multiple public schools near you and discovering which is the best fit for your family. 

For an example of the transfer process and timeline, check out Rapid City Area Schools’ guidelines. Generally, parents are responsible for their children’s transportation to a school they’ve selected through open enrollment, but districts can choose to cooperate to provide transportation.

The average per-pupil spending in South Dakota is $10,208. Find out more about public schools in your state at the South Dakota Department of Education.

 

Tennessee:

Tennessee has more than 1,700 public schools. In Tennessee, a 2021 bill required all school districts to offer an open enrollment period by fall 2022. This expansion of open enrollment means that parents may be able to transfer their child to any public school, regardless of where they live. If more students apply to a school than there is room for, a lottery may determine acceptance.

If you are interested in transferring public schools, contact your local school district for further guidelines.

The average per-pupil spending in Tennessee is $9,866. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Tennessee Department of Education

 

Texas:

In Texas, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies. Parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school than the one they are assigned should contact their local school district to see if this is an option. As an example, Socorro Independent School District allows families to switch schools within the district for qualifying reasons, including afterschool care needs or having a sibling at another school.

Note that if your child attends a school on the Texas Public Education Grant list of poorly-performing schools, you are automatically allowed to request a transfer. 

The average per-pupil spending in Texas is $10,342. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Texas Education Agency.

There’s one thing I always tell my kids and it’s something that I’m very passionate about. It doesn’t matter what you have, what you don’t have, the color of your skin, what language you speak, where you came from… You can be excellent. That’s what school choice for me means. That students have the opportunity, despite their circumstances on the outside, to be excellent once they walk through these doors. – David Knittle, Burbank Middle School, Texas

 

Utah:

Utah has unrestricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school in Utah, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. For a real-world example of the application process and deadlines, check out Salt Lake City School Districts’ open enrollment guidelines.

Generally, parents are responsible for transportation to the public school of their choice or to a stop on the district’s bus route. In some cases, the previously assigned school will provide transportation if they are trying to relieve overcrowding.

The average per-pupil spending in Utah is $8,366. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Utah State Board of Education.

Parents, educators, and community members can find education-related data about public schools (such as student proficiency and student growth rates) at Utah State Board of Education’s Data Gateway.

 

Vermont:

Vermont has unrestricted open enrollment for public high school and transfers for younger grades are widely available as well. What this means is that you may be able to send your child to any public school in Vermont, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. Note that local boards of education may set limits on transfers based on financial impact and capacity.

The average per-pupil spending in Vermont is $20,838. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Vermont Agency of Education.

 

Virginia:

In Virginia, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies. Parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school should contact their local school district to see if this is possible. For example, Albemarle County Public Schools generally requires students to attend their zoned school, but does allow transfers in some cases, such as for medical or emotional health, or because of a family move.

The average per-pupil spending in Virginia is $12,905. You can find out more about public schools in your state at the Virginia Department of Education.

 

Washington:

Washington has restricted open enrollment for public school. Based on Washington’s laws, families are able to apply for transfers within their school district. Whether families can choose to transfer between districts will depend on local policies, so check with your school district if you are interested in this option. For a real-world example, check out Lake Washington School District’s transfer forms and guidelines.

Besides traditional schools, Washington also has 14 “Skill Centers” that serve high schoolers across multiple school districts who want to gain specialized career training.

The average per-pupil spending in Washington is $14,556. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

 

West Virginia:

In West Virginia, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies. Open enrollment is an important way that parents have access to a broader variety of public schools; if you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your school district to learn if this is an option available to you.

For a real-world example, check out Wayne County Schools’ transfer application form.

The average per-pupil spending in West Virginia is $12,375. Find out more about public schools in your state at the West Virginia Department of Education.

 

Wisconsin:

Wisconsin has restricted open enrollment for public school. Based on Wisconsin’s laws, a parent may be able to choose a traditional public school in another district. In some cases, families can participate in open enrollment within a district as well. For example, the School District of La Crosse has an intradistrict application form families can use to request a transfer within the district.

Check with your local school district if you wish to participate in open enrollment. Generally, parents are responsible for transporting their child to their public school of choice. But, the school must provide it if a student has a disability. Low-income parents may apply for state reimbursement for transportation costs. Districts are allowed to collaborate to provide transportation, as well.

The average per-pupil spending in Wisconsin is $12,740. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

 

Wyoming:

In Wyoming, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies. Parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school than the one they are assigned should contact their local school district to see if this is an option.

As a real-world example, Natrona County Schools offers families a guide with information about curriculum and programming at different schools, and allows families to request their top choice school(s) rather than attend a zoned school. 

The average per-pupil spending in Wyoming is $16,698. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Wyoming Department of Education.

 

Washington, D.C.

The District of Columbia operates as a single school district. In D.C., families can apply to traditional public schools outside of the school assigned to them. D.C. uses a lottery system called My School DC. Families can apply to up to 12 schools out of nearly all of D.C.’s traditional public schools and public charter schools through the common lottery application. The lottery system then matches open seats with applicants. Nearly three-quarters of students in the district attend a school other than their neighborhood school.

Find out more about public schools in D.C. at the D.C. State Board of Education.

 

Shareable Facts about Public Schools of Choice

traditional public schoo infographic
Sources: The School Choice Roadmap, by Andrew Campanella; Education Commission of the States, 2022

Download and share the graphic of our guide to traditional public school.

Traditional public school Open Enrollment in USA 2020

Traditional Public Schools Celebrate Choice

Check out these stories from our archives about outstanding traditional public schools:

Burbank Middle School students stand in school hallway

"Teachers that come from another school or campus...they go through a culture shock here..."

Teachers in School Choice Week scarves take selfie

"From the time students come to our campus, they know that they are ambassadors..."

Coyote Springs Elementary School principal shares about school culture

"In our fifth grade class, every child was given the opportunity to go fly an airplane..."

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The information in this guide to public school transfer is designed to help families who are considering public schooling in their decision-making process. Our mission is to provide families with the information they need about all the school options available – traditional public, public charter, public magnet, private, online, and at home – so they can choose the right fit for their child. Read more guides about choosing other types of schools.

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