Legal Updates


2017-2019 BUDGET SERIES: RETURN OF PART-TIME OPEN ENROLLMENT

October 5, 2017

Like the state legislature’s two previous Biennial Budgets, the 2017-2019 Biennial Budget made significant changes to the course options statute, Wis. Stat. § 118.52.  Effective July 1, 2018, Wis. Stat. § 118.52 will be renamed “part-time open enrollment” and the program will be limited to courses offered by public school districts.  Therefore, students will no longer be able to attend courses offered by institutions of higher education under this program.  These changes reflect a return to the part-time open enrollment program that existed prior to the 2013-2015 Biennial Budget, which replaced the part-time open enrollment program with course options. 

One of the key components of the 2013-2015 Biennial Budget was the inclusion of institutions of higher education in the course options program.  In addition, Wis. Stat. § 118.52 was amended by the 2015-2017 Biennial Budget to permit institutions of higher education to charge a student additional tuition and fees if the student received post-secondary credit.  The 2017-2019 Biennial Budget removes these components of the statute and recreates the part-time open enrollment program in place of the course options program.

Under the 2017-2019 Biennial Budget, beginning with the 2018−2019 school year, a student enrolled in a high school grade in a public school district may attend public school in a nonresident school district for the purpose of taking a course offered by the nonresident school district.  A student may attend no more than two courses at any time in nonresident school districts. 

The application procedures contained in Wis. Stat. § 118.52(3) remain the same with the exception of deleting the references to “educational institution” and adding clarification with respect to students attending school under a whole grade sharing agreement.  The 2017-2019 Biennial Budget also did not make any changes to the requirement that school districts adopt a resolution specifying the criteria and policies for nonresident school district acceptance and rejection criteria, as well as resident school district rejection criteria.  Further, the 2017-2019 Biennial Budget did not change the requirement that a resident school board must reject a student’s application to attend a course in a nonresident school district if the resident school district determines that the course conflicts with the student’s individualized education program (IEP). 

Notably, the 2017-2019 Biennial Budget recreated a section on undue financial burden, a provision which previously existed but was repealed by the 2013-2015 Biennial Budget.  More specifically, under the 2017-2019 Biennial Budget, a resident school district may reject a student’s application to attend a course in a nonresident school district “if the cost of the course would impose upon the resident school district an undue financial burden in light of the resident school district’s total economic circumstances, including its revenue limit under subch. VII of ch. 121, its ability to pay tuition costs for the pupil, and the per pupil cost for children continuing to be served by the resident school district.”

The 2017-2019 Biennial Budget also deleted the provision which permitted a resident school district to deny a student’s application if the resident school district determined that the course did not satisfy graduation requirements or did not support the student’s academic and career plan.  However, the 2017-2019 Biennial Budget did not change the requirement that a resident school district must notify a student no later than one week prior to the date on which the course is scheduled to commence at a nonresident school district if the resident school district has determined that the course does not satisfy high school graduation requirements in the resident school district.

There were no significant changes to the provisions addressing the appeal process, rights and privileges of students attending nonresident school districts, disciplinary records, and transportation.  In addition, there were no significant changes to the provision addressing tuition, other than deleting the section which permitted an institution of higher education to charge additional tuition and fees for courses in which a student would receive post-secondary credit.

All of the changes to Wis. Stat. § 118.52 resulting from the 2017-2019 Biennial Budget will take effect on July 1, 2018.  Prior to that time, school districts should consider whether any policy revisions are necessary.  In addition, school districts will need to revise the notice required by Wis. Stat. § 118.57 and Wis. Stat. § 115.385(4) in order to replace references to course options with references to part-time open enrollment.

For questions regarding this article, please contact the author, Attorney Jenna E. Rousseau (email: jrousseau@strangpatteson.com; telephone: 844.833.0828), or your Strang, Patteson, Renning, Lewis, & Lacy, s.c., attorney.

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