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Students in Flight: School Choice Splits Twin Cities Suburbs into Haves, Have-Nots

From Eden Prairie to Mahtomedi, suburban parents are going the distance to enroll their children in other school districts and charter schools that offer the programs and services they want. In the process, they’re effectively redrawing the map of school district boundaries in the Twin Cities metro and producing unexpected winners and losers.

Open enrollment and charter schools, while slow to take hold when the choice movement began in the early 1990s, are proving increasingly popular with suburban families. More than 48,000 suburban students took advantage of school choice options last year, and that number continues to rise.

Minnetonka and Mahtomedi are among the big winners. Minnetonka has raked in $125 million in the past 10 years from open enrollment, while enrollment losses at school districts such as Burnsville-Eagan-Savage and Forest Lake are squeezing budgets and forcing major reinvention.