January finds us busy re-enrolling current scholars for the next school year and preparing for our annual enrollment period for new scholars, which occurs in February each year. Since this is a time when prospective parents are contemplating enrollment, it is also a time when one of the most prevalent myths about charter schools re-circulates.
Myth: Charter Schools “cherry-pick” scholars.
Frequently, this myth is layered in with the “charter schools are private schools” argument. Although I have addressed this topic in prior blog posts, it is always worth repeating. The Lincoln Academy is a 2x independent charter school, which Wisconsin State Statute defines as a public school and Local Education Agency (LEA), legally required to provide a free and appropriate education to all enrolled students, to accept all children (limited only by State of Wisconsin residency and the number of seats available) and required to meet the needs of all students.
Each year, there is an enrollment process that takes place at The Lincoln Academy to determine enrollment for the following school year. As indicated earlier, during the month of January we work with families of current scholars to re-enroll for the coming year by January 31st.
During February, our annual enrollment period, The Lincoln Academy accepts applications for enrollment for new scholars for the coming school year. Beginning February 1st, the application is available online at Enrollment | The Lincoln Academy in Beloit, Wisconsin or in-person weekdays between 8am and 4pm in the school office.
The application process for a new scholar involves completing the application and submitting both proof of Wisconsin residency and a copy of the scholar’s birth certificate. There are no additional eligibility requirements and there is no cost to attend.
If more applications are received during the enrollment period than there are seats available for a grade-level in the coming year, a public random lottery is held in early March (March 7th this year) to determine enrollment for available seats and the waitlist order for the coming year. Only completed applications submitted by midnight on the last day of February are eligible for the lottery process.
If the lottery process is needed, TLA gives preference in the order as follows:
1.) Scholars who were enrolled in the charter school in the previous year.
2.) Siblings of scholars enrolled in the charter school.*
3.) Children of full-time staff and TLA Board Members.
* Siblings are defined as: biological siblings that share parents, siblings that share a single parent, siblings that share a parent through marriage, children who share a parent through adoption or guardianship, siblings who reside in different households or foster children.
We are often asked if applications for the next school year are only accepted during the enrollment period. The simple answer is no. Completed applications received after midnight on the last day of February are accepted and processed on a first-come, first-served basis. If a seat is available, the scholar will be enrolled for the new year. If no seat is available, the scholar is placed on a waitlist in the order the application is received behind lottery waitlisted scholars. If a scholar is placed on a waitlist and does not get in by January of the following year, they must re-apply in February as a new waitlist starts in March once the lottery is completed.
The TLA enrollment process is structured and provides as much equal access as possible in an environment where there is a finite number of seats available. We encourage everyone interested in enrolling their child to apply during the February enrollment period, as it provides the best opportunity for enrollment when there is high demand for a grade-level. This does not mean, however, that there may not be less demand for seats or a short waitlist for a certain grade-level when a scholar applies at a different point in time. The only certainty is that a scholar will not have a chance at enrollment if the application is not completed at all.
Dr. Kristi Cole is the Chief Education Officer at The Lincoln Academy, a K4-12, 2x independent charter school in Beloit, Wisconsin.