CLARION - For now, the Clarion Area School Board will hold off on establishing the district's 2020-2021 non-resident tuition rates.
Proposed tuition rates for non-resident students were presented to the district's board of directors during a March 3 work session. The rates, which were potentially prepared for a vote at a meeting the following week, were proposed at $3,894 for one child, $5,452 for two children, and $6,226 for three or more children.
Those figures represent a 3 percent increase from the previous year, which is a typical practice for the district from year to year according to board secretary Jill Spence.
During the work session, board member Todd Bauer broached the topic of how the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program could come into play as it relates to the district's non-resident tuition charges moving forward.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the program enables eligible students residing within the attendance boundaries of a low-achieving school, as determined by PDE, to receive a scholarship if their household's annual income is no greater than $90,000 plus $15,842 for each dependent member of the household.
The program provides tax credits to eligible businesses contributing to an Opportunity Scholarship organization.
The business contributions are used by the organizations to provide tuition assistance in the form of the scholarship funds for students at low achieving schools to attend another public school outside of their resident district.
A low-achieving school is a public elementary or secondary school within the state ranking in the lowest 15 percent of schools based on PSSA and Keystone exam scores.
For the 2019-2020 school year, the maximum scholarship award available to non-special education students is $8,500, with special education student funds capped at $15,000.
Bauer said although the potential OSTC program scholarship's received by students at low-achieving schools could conceivably pay as high as $8,500 per student, the district's proposed rates were much lower and thus the students would only need to pay up to the district's rates.
Bauer added both Union and A-C Valley School districts' students were recently authorized to attend another public school as part of the program's criteria and their designations as low-achieving schools.
In addition, Clarion Area is one of three schools in the county, along with North Clarion and Redbank Valley, eligible to receive opportunity scholarship students.
"If you set your tuition at $3,800 and you have four kids that want to come from Union, they'll only pay us $3,800 because they'll look at what our tuition is," said Bauer.
"I think you should think about what you're setting your tuition at in case you get flooded by kids from other schools. You're going to be giving up quite a bit of money."
Bauer added he had found some schools eligible to receive students through the program enacting tuition rates as high as $12,000 to $15,000 per student.
At the March 10 voting meeting, superintendent Joe Carrico updated the board on the matter.
"I believe Mr. Bauer to be correct that (the rate to be paid) goes off of the tuition that we set," said Carrico. "So, if we set our tuition rate at what we have historically, that tuition rate is going to hold for any student that would choose to come here under this program."
"Where we set our tuition rate is lower than what the state establishes our tuition rates at. I think we need to get that number for (the board) for April so we can have an informed conversation about that before we approve our tuition rates."
Carrico said he believed through the program, the district would not be required to provide transportation to eligible students. He also noted students at Union would be able to attend Clarion Area since the districts' respective borders are within ten miles of each other.
The board's next meeting will take place at 7 p.m. April 14 in the high school LGI room.