A hearing officer in the non-resident student dispute between the two school districts recommended Tuesday that the city schools continue to be permitted to enroll 750 county students for the next school year. Those students have to apply to city schools to be accepted and pay a tuition.
“The WCPS Board is committed to doing what is fair and equitable for all kids and this belief remains steadfast," Warren County Superintendent Rob Clayton said in a news release. "Our Board is not in position to enter into a nonresident contract unless the agreement is transparent, fair and equitable for all students and the Hearing Officer’s recommendation is in stark contrast to this position."
Hearing officer Mike Wilson's recommendation now goes to Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday for his final ruling, which could still be appealed to the Kentucky State Board of Education.
Wilson's recommendation on the number of county students accepted was virtually identical to a decision he handed down last year. Among the findings in the 40 page report were the opinions that there's no evidence to suggest the non-resident process that Bowling Green uses is unfair. The recommendation did not suggest any guideline or deadlines for future negotiations.
The two school districts have been at odds for more than a year regarding the non-resident student cap.
The Bowling Green Independent School District Monday night introduced new elements in their ongoing negotiations with the Warren County School District over the number of non-city residents who can attend city schools.
The school systems don't have an agreement about how many county-resident students the city will accept, and are trying to reach a contract under orders from Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday.
The Bowling Green Daily News reports the city's plan includes a reduction from 750 non-resident students to 650 over ten years. Non-resident students would be admitted on a first come, first served basis. Siblings of students would be admitted, 60% of the remaining spots would be filled by kindergarteners based on application date, and the final 40% on grades 1 - 12 based on date of application.
The non-resident agreement is key to a school district receiving Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding for out-of-district students.
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."