I Support Universal Enrollment

Growing up in Lower Merion, my schooling followed a predictable path.   I traveled from Penn Wynne Elementary School to Bala Cynwyd Middle School to Lower Merion High School.  My Father, who grew up a few blocks away, took the exact same path, as did most of my classmates.  We didn’t really think about it.

In Philadelphia, the simple of act of going to a place one is legally mandated to attend becomes a mind-bending ordeal.  Students going from K-8 to High School have dozens upon dozens of options:  Charters, Neighborhood Schools, Magnets, City Wide Admits, Independent, and Parochial Schools.  There is a move to make “universal” the enrollment process.  This is a good idea, and I’d like to help.

Here’s my vision:  A one page form that requires a student’s name, current address, contact for a guardian (with space for another), and their current enrollment status.  Any magnet-type school could add a 1 page addendum with further instructions.  All schools would be required to have a designated, accessible place for parents to submit their form in the building.  The form will be due on a specific date for all schools and translated by community groups into whatever languages are needed.  It would be available for submission by email or any time during school hours.

Every District and Public Charter School would be required to comply.  Our friends at the Philadelphia School Partnership could add it as a prerequisite for funding.  Any Catholic or Independent School could download and use the form if they wished.

Philadelphia Universal Enrollment Form

I grant this to the School District of Philadelphia free of charge.  In fact, I also volunteer the Teacher’s Action Group to set up a public forum to name-and-shame any school that shirks, dodges, or otherwise perverts the meaning of “universal”.  We’re good at this stuff.

As my reward, all I ask is that somebody give a reasonable explanation for why the proposed plan for Universal Enrollment involves millions of dollars and secret computer algorithm.  Because I just solved this problem with 20 minutes and a PDF.

Where is the market for this stuff?  I don’t see anyone monetizing GreatPhillySchools.com1 or The Notebook’s outstanding High School Guide.  This isn’t Uber, making money off an unrequited demand for taxis.  The Universal Enrollment plan being pushed more closely resembles the market for a Manhattan apartment, where interests have so convoluted and obfuscated the process that consumers are compelled to hire someone simply to get a foot in the door.  We have forced parents into a completely unnecessary Labyrinth and are billing the taxpayers for their ball of string.

But if some yahoo out there really wants to give their money to Universal Enrollment, I’m willing to help.  Give us your millions.  We will hire “Enrollment Specialists” for all schools.  The rest of the planet calls them “Guidance Counselors” and they arrive fully trained.  They are wonderful professionals; our schools need more of them.

And you know what? I’d also like a nurse and working computers. And a pony.  But mostly I’d like to focus on real problems we have instead of the problems some want.   Keep it simple.

What’s next?


  1. other than buying the actual words they write. But that’s supplier-driven, not customer-driven 

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