A ruling from the Kentucky Education Commission is expected in two weeks regarding how many students the Warren County school system will allow to attend Bowling Green city schools this school year.
A 2001 agreement between the districts set a cap on the number of transferring students. But last April, the county lowered that number by about 90 students. The state would not reimburse the Bowling Green district for students over that number, but they could still attend city schools at a cost of a little over $4,000 a year.
After a three day hearing on the matter wrapped up Saturday morning, Bowling Green school superintendent Joe Tinius told WKU Public Radio there is a slight financial aspect to the controversy but he sees it as a bigger issue, saying neither side would see a net profit from the final decision.
"That's not what education is all about," said Tinius. "This is more about an opportunity for parents to have a choice on where to send their children to school."
The last-minute nature of the county's decision is also causing city schools planning problems for hiring the right amount of staff for the coming school year. "We were already well into planning for the school year and had to back up and start all over again," Tinius said. "And now with a decision expected just a week before school starts, we have to be prepared for either scenario."
Warren County superintendent Rob Clayton was just hired last month, well after the county board's cap decision, so he said he's been trying to take it all in by listening and learning and "looking to continue a positive relationship between two great school systems." He calls the whole situation "unfortunate" but said his hands are tied from the state level.
"What the legislature has determined is that we don't have school choice," Clayton said. "In order to go to school in a district, you have to reside in that district but there have been non-resident contracts to permit a certain number of students to enter into other districts. Even in this current situation, every student in Warren County did not have their choice of schools."
Kentucky Education Commissioner Holliday appointed Lexington attorney Mike Wilson to hear the case. Wilson said he'll reserve this coming week for last minute memorandums from both sides' attorneys and then make his ruling with a week after that.