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Students from outside Mecklenburg County will pay more / December 22, 2010
Out-of-county students will continue to have access to a Mecklenburg County education next year, but will pay more for the privilege.

The School Board on Monday approved a recommendation by superintendent Dr. James Thornton to increase tuition from $500 to $1,200 per student per year in 2011-12. In the two following years, tuition will rise in steps to $1,800 and then $2,400.If more than one child per family enrolls, the first child will pay full tuition and additional children pay half

Out-of-county children will be accepted on a space-available basis.

Thornton previously had suggested an immediate hike in tuition to $2,400, which is the local cost to educate a child in Mecklenburg County.

Parents and students at previous meetings spoke out against denying access to non-residents or raising the tuition. They did so again on Monday during public input, which preceded the superintendent’s report.

They told the board that they bring to the school division both high achievement and tuition revenue. They said they also contribute their talents as volunteers and their dollars as shoppers in Mecklenburg County.

Some said families, especially single parent families, can not afford a significant price increase.

Among the speakers was a minister who also teaches at South Hill Christian School.

A number of out-of-county students who attend the Christian school through eighth grade enter public high school in the county.

He pointed out the contributions these students make and said many parents agree they should pay a fair tuition.

A Brodnax parent said he never thought of himself as “out of county.” Like several others who spoke, he said he and his wife work in South Hill and feel comfortable being g close to their children if they’re needed.

A mother of two girls said her family resides in Brunswick County, but shops, banks, and makes doctor visits in Mecklenburg.

We “desperately need” to have our children in the Mecklenburg County school system,” she said.

Board member later discussed the details of Thornton’s new recommendation.

In answer to a question from trustee Tommy Coleman, Thornton defined adequate space as available space to admit a child to a particular class without “pushing us over the threshold of having to hire another teacher.”

Trustee Sandra Tanner stated that a lot of out-of-county parents use child care in Mecklenburg County and count on educating their children here.

As the discussion drew to a close, she commented: “At least this is better than what we began with.”

In the end, she voted for the tuition hike. Only Debra Smiley voted no. Joan Wagstaff was absent.

Attorney Brad King advised the board that a written policy should be prepared to clearly define the condition s applying to out-of-county enrollment and tuition.

Trustee Thomas Bullock inquired about how the policy would be enforced. Board chairman Robert Puryear said the policy could specify enforcement procedures.

Thornton told the board that Mecklenburg schools currently serve some 68 out-of-county students, dispersed among g four or five schools, mostly at the eastern end of the county.

“We have not turned anyone away,” he said.

Current students, however, will not be grandfathered – they will have to apply to attend in the 2011-12 school year. If admitted, they will pay the new tuition rates, Thornton said.

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