PC schools may consider tuition option

Published 10:35 pm Thursday, December 22, 2011

If the Troy City Schools approve a tuition-based, non-district enrollment option, the Pike County Schools will be forced to offer the same option “in an effort to level the playing field.”

Troy City Schools Superintendent Lee Hicks proposed a tuition-based enrollment policy for out-of-district students who are attending non-public or home school programs during the board’s November meeting. Hicks said recent the policy is still an active issue, although the board will likely not vote on it until January.

“Right now, because of discussions Dr. (Mark) Bazzell and I have had discussing concerns he had, we’re reviewing it,” Hicks said. “We want to make sure we’re not addressing students who are just living in Pike County …

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“We have time here to make a decision and we want to create a policy that’s solid and sound.”

At the time he presented the policy, Hicks said “We feel like we have a lot to offer, and in speaking to board members and administrators, we feel like this is a perfect opportunity to allow students whose parents may work here but who attend schools elsewhere to come to our district.”

The proposed policy would allow students who are not attending a state-funded institution to apply for enrollment in the Troy district. The students would pay an average of $800 per year to attend the city schools.

“We would accept students coming from a private institution or from a home-schooling situation,” Hicks said in November. However, students attending another public school district – such as the Pike County schools – would not be eligible. “We are not in competition with the Pike County last week that the proposed policy is concerning.

“We discussed this in-depth at our board meeting,” he said. “And my recommendation will be that if the Troy City Schools passes that policy in its current form that we do likewise and pass a policy that mirrors theirs in every respect …

“Our purpose in adopting a similar policy would be to level the playing field.”

Bazzell said his concern is that the TCS policy would allow for the transfer of students zoned for Pike County schools but currently attending a private or home-school program into the city schools.

“We have lots of requests for students to transfer into our system from the city or from private or home-school situations,” Bazzell said. “But our policy right now is that you must attend school in the school for which you are zoned. …

“This policy would open the door for students to cross those lines.”

Bazzell said his preference is for the systems to follow the current policies, which allow for transfers across zoning lines based on four criteria: if the system provides an academic program not offered at another school; for a medical reason, which must be supported by physicians; a compelling health or safety concern; and if a student’s parent works in the school.

“I’m not naïve enough to believe we don’t have some kids going both ways who fall outside those guidelines, but I think this policy is going to open a door that is very hard to monitor,” he said.

Hicks said, however, that the city schools seek to open their enrollment to students outside the Pike County zones. “There are plenty of students who are zoned for other districts but who may live closer to the Troy City Schools,” he said.

Bazzell said he has “no problem with them or us accepting somebody who lives in Montgomery but whose parents work here in Pike County … but my concern would be allow those who live outside city limits to attend the city schools or who live inside the city limits to attend the county schools.”

At stake in the debate is money. The city and county school districts share a 1-cent sales tax that is divided proportionally based on student enrollment. In the past nine years, Pike County Schools have seen a growth in enrollment at least seven of those years and are now receiving a larger portion of that sales tax revenue than the city schools. State allocations also are divided based in part on enrollment figures.

“The tuition … you’d be receiving is negligible in terms of the big picture,” Bazzell said. “I’d like to see both systems continue to operate under the rules we have in place.”