Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 5, 2013

Russell, Raceland hope for ruling similar to situation in Corbin

Mike James
The Independent

CORBIN — Two school districts in Greenup County embroiled in a dispute with a third over non-resident students are looking southward for a solution.

Russell and Raceland-Worthington independent districts are at odds with the Greenup County district, which late last month sought new restrictions on agreements under which students from one district enroll at another.

The two independents are mostly satisfied with Greenup’s proposal, which would cap out-of-district enrollments and include grandfather clauses so current students could remain at the school of their choice.

Where they differ is on younger siblings of the grandfathered students. Russell and Raceland want them included under the grandfather clause.

Greenup has turned down counterproposals to that effect from both districts. Both have filed appeals to state Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and may file further appeals to the state board of education to decide the issue.

Their hopes are that Holliday and the board will issue rulings similar to those in the case of the Corbin independent district, which for three years has been locked in a similar disagreement with the Knox County district.

That conflict started in 2010, according to Corbin Superintendent Ed McNeel. Knox County declined to renew non-resident agreements under which an unlimited number of students from either district could attend the other, and elected to require all children living in the county district to attend county schools.

Knox County, with about 4,500 students, was losing about 500 students per year to Corbin, where the enrollment is about 2,800. About 30 were going from Corbin to Knox.

Holliday ruled that Knox had to allow currently enrolled Corbin students to remain in that district. Corbin, however, wanted the ruling to include younger siblings of those students, so that families with school-age and pre-school children could count on the younger children being able to attend the same schools as their older brothers and sisters.

So Corbin filed a second appeal, this time to the Kentucky Board of Education, which ruled that siblings must be included in the plan.

However, Knox County did not then and still has not signed an agreement so the districts are still operating under the rulings. Corbin has had to file appeals each succeeding year, McNeel said.

Corbin has filed an appeal in Franklin Circuit Court; that appeal is pending and it appears the court system ultimately will decide the issue.

Russell and Raceland officials seem confident that the Corbin case is a clear precedent and that they can expect similar rulings in their appeals.

That may not be the case, however. The Corbin rulings were not based solely on the sibling issue, and different circumstances may result in different rulings, according to Kentucky School Boards Association spokesman Brad Hughes.

Also, there appear to be few other precedents, because there have been only a handful of such appeals to the state, Hughes said.

 But that may be changing, because more districts are seeking to tighten non-residency requirements. “There are non-residency issues in at least half a dozen places around the state this year,” Hughes said.

The issues are arising because school districts are increasingly short of operating money in a still-soft economy with state funding continuing to dwindle.

State funding is based on the number of students attending school, and every child who elects to go to another district under a non-resident agreement takes along close to $4,000 in state aid.

Greenup’s board, which for some time has had agreements with virtually every other area district, has balked at the agreements with Russell and Raceland because around 340 students living in the Greenup district attend one of the two schools, while only a few go in the other direction.

Greenup hasn’t scheduled any meetings to discuss the counterproposals but Superintendent Steve Hall said he hopes negotiations can continue and that the districts can settle their differences locally.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or

(606) 326-2652.