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Opinion

Former Coventry treasurer explains open enrollment costs

4/4/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Letter to the Editor

To the editor:

Responding to James Howe’s letter to the editor in the March 22, 2013, issue [“Resident suggests open enrollment not paying for itself”], I offer the following comments.

Mr. Howe suggests that the taxpayers are “coughing up” $3.6 million for open enrollment students, money that he assumes could be used elsewhere. His example, however, is not as simple as he believes.

The per pupil expense calculation he quoted of $8,835.61 per student actually includes total expenses from all available funds, not just property taxes and state funding. There are other revenue sources included in the expense per pupil that are too numerous and complicated to list. It is a far more complex scenario than the simplistic way Mr. Howe used to blame open enrollment for his opposition to this bond/levy issue.

An even greater explanation for the district’s financial condition is the state basic aid funding method. Coventry is considered a wealthy district by the state, and we are all aware that this is not true. However, our funding is based on this misconception.

Using property values as the basis, the state reduces the gross amount funded for resident students. While we receive 100 percent of the per pupil amount for open enrollment students, we receive only 64 percent of the per pupil amount for our resident students. Our reduction is $207,366 per pupil for 1,534.83 students, or a total of $3,182,711. The state expects the reduced amount to be funded at the local level.

So based on this information, is Mr. Howe’s calculated “deficit” from open enrollment causing our financial problems, or is the “deficit” actually within the state formula that reduces our per pupil funding for resident students? Are the taxpayers “coughing up” $3.1 million instead of the state? Further, there are 160 resident students attending elsewhere that costs an additional $862,652 reduction in state funding.

It is time to stop using open enrollment as an excuse to deny the district the help it needs. Open enrollment provides competition, more program opportunities and a better overall education than a 1,500-student district could provide. Open enrollment is a benefit to Coventry, both financially and educationally.

Isn’t the education and future of our children and community supposed to be our top priority? Must we be so territorial in educating students? Is this not a perfect example of “it takes a village to raise a child?” All Ohio districts with open enrollment face this unchangeable funding dilemma. We simply can’t keep saying no because we are personally angry about a situation over which we have no control.

It isn’t the open enrollment students that are costing us; it’s the flaw in the funding system by the state. We simply cannot wait for that to change. Our kids can’t wait. We now have a chance to get $11 million from the state for a project we could never do on our own. It’s time to approve the funds that must be provided at the local level in order to accomplish this goal!

We need to vote yes! Vote Yes on the Coventry Local School District bond and levy issue in the May 7 Primary Election.

Lee Ann Weisenmiller, retired treasurer, Coventry Local School District

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