Raceland-Worthington Ind. asks Greenup Co. for open enrollment for nonresident students; R-W superintendent: "We are pro school choice," county leader studying data

The Independent, Ashland, Feb. 17, 2017

Raceland seeks changes in reciprocal agreement with Greenup County

By MIKE JAMES

RACELAND - The Raceland-Worthington School District wants the Greenup County district to ease up on restrictions that limit the number of children who live in the county but enroll at Raceland.

Raceland board members and administrators say the current reciprocal agreement governing cross-district enrollment will force it to send some children currently at Raceland schools back to Greenup in the fall.

They say the agreement doesn’t take into account families that have moved from district to district since it was made in 2012.

Under the terms of the current agreement, Raceland is faced with having to send six students back to Greenup in the next school year, Superintendent Larry Coldiron said.

The agreement was hammered out with the help of a mediator in 2012, when Greenup was trying to limit the number of students it lost to neighboring districts. Most Kentucky school districts have open reciprocal agreements with their neighbors because they swap approximately equal numbers of students.

But when one district siphons off a significantly larger number of children, the other district takes a financial hit because state funding, called Support Education Excellence in Kentucky, or SEEK, goes with the student.

The outflow of students from Greenup, mainly to Raceland and Russell independent districts, was costing Greenup thousands of dollars in SEEK funding at about $4,400 each.

The mediated agreement capped the number of Greenup-resident students who could go to Raceland at 191 in the 2013-2014 school year, with the cap dropping over the following years. This year’s cap is 141 and next year it will be 124, Coldiron said.

The problem, Coldiron said, is that changes in the cap were based in part on the number of students who graduated — that number of students would not be replaced by incoming children.

But this year only 11 Greenup-resident students will graduate from Raceland. Since next year’s cap requires 17 fewer Greenup children at Raceland, the district will face the painful necessity of sending six children back to Greenup, Coldiron said.

How Raceland would choose the children has not been determined, he said.

And the same dilemma is likely to recur in following years, he said.

The numbers used to craft the mediated agreement are no longer accurate, because the families of some county-resident students have moved into the Raceland district, he said.

Raceland’s board asked the Greenup board in a letter late last month to scrap the agreement and return to an open agreement that would allow any student from either district to choose where to enroll.

“We are pro school choice,” Coldiron said. “We think parents in today’s society should have the opportunity to choose the school their kids attend.”

He endorsed a proposal made recently by Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Secretary Hal Heiner to allow students to attend any district where seats are available, with SEEK money following them.

Greenup Superintendent Sherry Horsley declined comment Wednesday and said she and her school board are studying the data on cross-district enrollment. She said the Greenup children going to Raceland next year will be taking close to $500,000 in state funding with them.

She said in a text message a district can accept as many students as it wants and that although state funding would not follow it would have the option of charging tuition.

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