Glad You Asked!

Published February 1, 2003

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) give parents options for transferring their children out of schools needing improvement to better-performing public school. On December 4, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance on these school choice provisions.

The guidance comes in the form of a 28-page document that provides answers to a series of questions about implementation, eligibility, communication with parents, and the types of schools involved. Issues concerning special education, desegregation plans, and transportation funding also are covered. According to the Department, “States may rely on this guidance in administering these [school choice] requirements.”

The questions addressed in the document are provided below. The answers may be viewed by accessing the publication, Public School Choice: Draft Non-Regulatory Guidance, at the U.S. Department of Education’s Web site at

A. General Information

A-1. What is the purpose of the public school choice requirement in No Child Left Behind?

A-2. Which schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) are required to offer public school choice?

A-3. What are the characteristics parents should look for in the schools they are considering for their child?

A-4. What are the key components of a quality public school choice plan?

A-5. Can an existing choice program, such as an open enrollment program, be modified to include the Title I public school choice requirement?

A-6. What other educational choice options are available to students and parents under the Act?

A-7. Does the State have any reporting requirements regarding public school choice?

B. Timing and Duration of Choices

B-1. In which schools is an LEA required to offer public school choice?

B-2. When must an LEA make public school choice available to eligible students?

B-3. How should year-round schools meet the requirement to offer school choice by the beginning of the school year?

B-4. What is the responsibility of a state educational agency (SEA) to ensure that public school choice is available at the start of a new school year?

B-5. Is an SEA required to identify a school for improvement if it does not make adequate yearly progress (AYP) for the second consecutive year based on its 2001-02 assessment results?

B-6. How long must an LEA continue to offer students in eligible Title I schools the option to attend another public school?

B-7. How long must students be allowed to attend the school of their choice?

B-8. What if the assessment data from the 2001-2002 school year are not received until after the start of the 2002-2003 school year?

B-9. What can an LEA do to plan for public school choice even before assessment results are available?

C. Eligible Students

C-1. Who is eligible to participate in public school choice under NCLB?

C-2. Which Title I schools must provide their students with public school choice?

C-3. What does the law mean when it says the LEA shall “give priority to the lowest achieving children from low-income families?”

C-4. How does an LEA determine “priority?”

C-5. What if a particular student attends a school that has been identified for improvement, but has been assigned to that school by a court order or for disciplinary reasons?

D. Notification of Parents

D-1. When should parents be notified that their children are eligible for public school choice?

D-2. How must an LEA notify parents that their children are eligible for public school choice?

D-3. How can the public school choice program improve community and parent relations with the school district?

D-4. What should parents be advised to look for when they are given the option of school choice?

D-5. How much time should parents have to consider their options?

D-6. How can parents communicate their choice of school?

D-7. If there are no schools to which students can transfer because (1) all schools at a grade level are in school improvement; (2) there is only one school in the district; or (3) transportation to an eligible school is not feasible; must parents still be notified?

E. Schools of Choice

E-1. Which schools must be offered to students as transfer options?

E-2. Are any public schools not available for parents and students who wish to transfer?

E-3. How many choices of schools is an LEA required to offer to students?

E-4. May specialty schools be offered to students as transfer options?

E-5. Is an LEA permitted to limit the choices available to students?

E-6. How is the final decision made in selecting the school to which students will transfer?

E-7. What if schools do not have the physical capacity to accept transferring students?

E-8. What if State or local laws have the effect of limiting choice?

E-9. What if existing local transfer policies prohibit school choice?

E-10. What if choice might create health or safety problems?

E-11. May an LEA provide eligible students with an option to transfer to schools outside of the district?

E-12. What if providing the option to transfer to another public school is not possible?

F. Special Education and Choice

F-1. What are the responsibilities of the school that receives transfer students with disabilities?

F-2. Must students with disabilities be offered their choice of the same schools as nondisabled students?

F-3. Does the movement of a student with disabilities to a school of choice constitute a ‘change of placement’ under the IDEA?

G. Desegregation Issues

G-1. Must an LEA provide the option to transfer if the LEA is complying with a desegregation plan?

G-2. What if the desegregation plan is a court-ordered plan?

G-3. If an LEA has to go back to court to amend its desegregation plan, can it use Title I funds to pay the associated legal costs?

H. Responsibilities of Schools Receiving Transfer Students

H-1. What are the responsibilities of a school that receives transfer students under this program?

H-2. May districts prohibit students transferring from a school identified for improvement the opportunity to play sports in their new school?

I. State and Federal Law and School Choice

I-1. What does the state law prohibition against school choice mean?

I-2. What if a State has an open enrollment policy?

I-3. How do Federal civil rights laws apply to LEAs implementing public school choice?

J. General Funding Issues

J-1. Are there any requirements as to how general educational services for transfer students are funded by the LEA?

J-2. What Federal funds are available to pay for transportation?

J-3. If a child transfers out of her or his original school, should an LEA include that child (1) in the count of children used to determine the Title I allocation to the school of residence; or (2) in the count used to determine the Title I allocation to the school of enrollment?

J-4. May Title I funds be used to benefit non-Title I schools that receive students transferring from Title I schools identified for improvement?

J-5. Does special education funding follow a child with disabilities to the school of his or her choice?

K. Transportation Funding Issues

K-1. Is an LEA required to provide transportation to schools of choice?

K-2. What funds can be used by an LEA to pay for choice-related transportation?

K-3. How much must an LEA pay to provide choice-related transportation?

K-4. What must an LEA do if funds are not sufficient to provide transportation to all students wishing to transfer?

K-5. Must an LEA reserve a portion of its Title I allocation to pay for choice-related transportation?

K-6. What other Federal program dollars may be used to pay for choice-related transportation?

K-7. Is an LEA required to pay for transportation for students who have left a school in improvement prior to the enactment of No Child Left Behind?

K-8. If an LEA does not already directly provide for transportation to and from school, must the district provide transportation for students choosing to transfer under these provisions?

K-9. May LEAs establish transportation zones within an LEA based on geographic location of schools?

K-10. Does the Title I “supplement, not supplant” requirement apply to transportation funds?