Prepared Text for Board Meeting Ė September 24, 2007

Marc A. Schare,

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marc9@aol.com

 

Tonight, we need to make some short term decisions as to how to react to the Ohio Attorney Generalís opinion about charging for K+. The administrative recommendation is to suspend tuition payments pending legislative or judicial action.

 

To begin, it is clear that we cannot simply cancel the program. We have contractual obligations to our teachers and contractual and moral obligations to the parents of the 405 kids participating in the program this year. Agree or disagree with Mr. Dann, but it is inarguable that his timing on educational issues is atrocious. Perhaps someone should remind him that the school year starts in late August.

 

Opinions seems to be mixed on what to do. Some school districts have ceased charging for tuition while others, Princeton Schools for example, received guidance from their attorney to continue charging the tuition. Still others, Solon Schools for example, believe that guidance must come from the Ohio Department of Education. .

 

In my opinion, to take action based solely on the opinion of the attorney general is to give those opinions the same weight as actual law. If the issue were to be litigated, it is possible that the Attorney General would prevail but it is also possible that he would not. Until we know, I would prefer to err on the side of the Worthington taxpayer who, if we stopped charging for tuition, would be paying the $68,000 monthly bill.

 

The K+ program was sold in Worthington on the basis that it would be cost neutral. We have an obligation, in my opinion, to keep that promise unless told by, to coin a phrase, a controlling legal authority, that we cannot. Attorney General Dann does not represent that authority. He has an opinion, but that opinion does not carry the weight of law in Ohio.

 

What are the ramifications of continuing to charge for tuition. There are two possibilities. First, the issue could be decided in the courts and we might have to refund the money, in which case we are probably in no worse shape than if we suspended payments in the first place. Second, there is the possibility of legislative action. We have all received correspondence from Representative Bacon who, by the way, is the most responsive state legislator in history and who is drafting, along with Senator Stivers, legislation to clarify what can and cannot be charged for. Once that legislation is passed, clarity will be restored and again, the worst case scenario is that we might have to refund some of the payments but then again, we might not. To try and collect those payments retroactively assuming we can continue to charge would be close to impossible.

 

In a nutshell, the attorney generalís opinion, lacking any other event, is not enough, in my opinion, to change the status quo, therefore, my strong preference is that we take no action until some event occurs to compel action.

 

Two final points need to be mentioned on this subject. First, why is this different than the Metro Schools opinion. For me, it has to do with timing and my assessment of the ultimate probable result. We are one of three districts impacted by the Metro Schools decision. Metro is entirely voluntary. The legislature was not likely to write law to cover this area. In addition, we were two days into a school year so if we were going to act, we needed to act quickly. Full day kindergarten, on the other hand, given the wide ranging impact of not allowing school districts to charge, is likely to be adjudicated quickly by the courts or by the legislature and I find it hard to believe that the legislature, or Governor Strickland, is going to take action (or not take action) that results in the cancellation of hundreds of public school full day kindergarten programs across the state, especially when the attorney general himself stated that the legislature should take action on this issue. Second, the Attorney Generalís opinion, while written to cover kindergarten, could really apply to anything that public schools charge for that is not explicitly covered in the Ohio Revised Code. One example might be our high school cocurricular program and the justification for charging a pay to participate fee. It is my hope that the legislature writes comprehensive law to cover this subject.