Added Wilds, “As to (Somerset Independent’s) reasons for rejection (of the most recent county contract), all the language they questioned has been included with the contracts for 10 years (since the 2003-2004 school year) except for language related to employee students. In fact, they reciprocate the same language in an addendum for us to sign when they issue their contract.”
In mid-February, the Somerset School board opted to not approve the contract submitted by the county under the new terms. They sent a statement to the Commonwealth Journal saying that the language in the contract was “inequitable in that (the county) may add Somerset resident students without limitation and at its discretion, but not vice-versa”; that it implied Somerset might discriminate against special needs students; that it would require Somerset to “accept an unnecessary and burdensome role in verifying guardianship residency when duly authorized by a local court”; and that some language is no longer applicable to a recent state rules change through House Bill 182.
“The 2013-2014 contract with Somerset was issued before February 1 of last year as required. During the past legislative session, it was enacted that employee students who had previously been part of the nonresident contract numbers are now exempt from the contracts,” said Wilds. “The result was that for this school year, Somerset has 254 Pulaski County students, which is over the intended 240 contract number (208 Pulaski County students, as well as 46 employee students from Pulaski County who were previously included in the non-contract numbers but now are exempt). Due to the new legislation, the contract number needed adjusting regardless to control for employee students.”
Wilds also noted that Somerset and Science Hill have gained students over the past four years that grew enrollment numbers, in addition to the county territory students, while Pulaski County’s numbers have been stagnant over the same period of time.