Senator says open enrollment creates taxation without representation

DES MOINES — A state senator from southeast Iowa wants to adjust the financing for students who attend school outside the district in which they live.

It’s called “open enrollment.” For 30 years, Iowa parents have been able to enroll their kids in public school districts outside the one in which they live. Senator Tom Greene, a Republican from Burlington, says it’s “a real financial issue” for districts that are losing students.

“I think open enrollment is here to stay,” Greene says. “It’s not going to change and I understand that, but what I want to do is change the funding mechanism.”

Greene is proposing that the home district — where the student lives — keep of 12 percent of the “per pupil” spending for each student who “open enrolls” into another district. Green says that means all the state and federal tax dollars would follow a student to the other school, but the taxes paid by local property owners would stay put. Green says sending property tax dollars to another district is “taxation without representation.”

“The Burlington School District totally surrounds the West Burlington School District. The West Burlington School District has 800 and 900 students; 53 percent of those students reside outside the boundaries of the West Burlington School District,” Greene says. “A huge amount of money comes into the West Burlington School District from outside, but those taxpayers have no say in how that money is spent. That’s my biggest concern.”

Before his election to the state senate, Greene was a member of the Burlington School Board and served as its president.