Parents of out-of-county students currently enrolled in Cannon County Schools who have not paid the system's $800 per student tuition fee ($1000 maximum per family) must do so by the end of this semester or their child will be forced to leave the school they are attending.
Faced with no viable alternative, the Cannon County School Board decided Thursday night to deny a request made by the mother of a student attending Short Mountain School to waive its out-of-county tuition fee.
While the student, now a third-grader, has been attending the school since Pre-K, his family moved just across the county line into Warren County a few years ago. They have not paid any tuition since the move.
The decision by the school board affects about 12 students in all. After the issue with the Short Mountain student came to light in October, Director of Schools Barbara Parker asked principals at each school to research their records and give her a list of all out-of-county students attending their school.
Parker reported to the board at Thursday's meeting, held at West Side School, that there are currently 27 out-of-county students. Four are children of teachers in the system and are not required to pay tuition. Six are "grandfathered" in because they have been attending local schools since before the policy went into effect in 2000. Three have paid the fee, and two are scheduled to pay in December. That leaves 12 that have not paid.
Board member Shannon Davenport said the $800 tuition fees equal out to $4.44 per day. She added that other surrounding counties such as Warren, DeKalb and Rutherford do not allow transfers. Coffee County allows transfers, but the City of Manchester charges $500 per student and Tullahoma schools charge $900.
"It's not only the issue at the elementary (level) right now," Davenport said. "I'm looking at the new standards at the high school, we are short of room right now on classrooms, and if we do not get a hold of it now we are going to have kids who have gone their whole lives here and their parents have property and they've paid the wheel tax sticker and they are not going to be able to get in classes they need to get into."
Davenport said there are some out-of-county students that have probably been going to school that have gotten by with not paying tuition, "but I can't go back and change that. What we have to do now is take the initiative that has been but in front of us and enforce it.
"I hate it for the children, it's not the children's fault," Davenport said. "I know it's hard on them. Somewhere the ball was dropped ... but I think it is only in the best interest of every child in this county that have parents who live here that pay the taxes that we stick to this policy."
Davenport made the motion to enforce the policy. Board chairman Randy Gannon made the motion to give families who have not paid the tuition until the Christmas break to do so or the student will have to leave the school they are attending. Both motions passed unanimously.
See next week's Cannon Courier for a full report of Thursday's school board meeting.