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Catholic, public schools' fee differ

Roughrider Education Service Program members discussed at length whether a motion made at the Sept 1. meeting violated RESP bylaws during a two-hour meeting Wednesday at Dickinson State University.

The motion states that non-public schools wishing to be cooperating members of the RESP for 2010-2011 will be assessed the RESP membership fee and a per-student fee of 50 percent of the state per-student payment made to RESP. Like other RESP members, they will pay participation fees at the RESP member rate.

Per-student fees are something the legislature has built into the funding formula, said Amy Axtman, RESP director. "According to the Legislature Regional Education Association's are to receive $15.11 per student from each of the participating districts."

There are 19 districts in RESP.

The RESP receive the per-student payments for the public schools from the state general fund.

Because non-public schools do not receive these payments, in the bylaws it says non-public schools have to pay a per-student fee based on the state per-student fees, Axtman said.

These fees go toward the funding of all RESP activities for students and teachers throughout the year, such as training, academic olympics, spelling bee contests and career expos, Axtman said.

The RESP governing board first decided to lower the per-student fee for non-public schools "After Dickinson Catholic Schools approached the RESP saying they were unsure if they could afford the per-student fees going into this fiscal year," said Bill Gion, chairman of the RESP.­­

"We feel that all the students and teachers in both public and non-public schools should have access to the services we offer so we tried to come up with what we felt was a reasonable solution for both the RESP and DCS," Axtman said.

Two RESP members felt the motion didn't coincide with the RESP bylaw which states all non-public school districts that are participating cooperating partners of the REA will be assessed the same annual membership fee as member districts and a student fee based on state payments.

"The RESP should charge everyone equally," said Doug Sullivan, Dickinson Public Schools Superintendent.

The motion passed contingent on legal review.

Axtman gathered legal input and found that no legal opinion has been made concerning the issue and that other non-public schools in REAs are charged membership fees determined by the governing board of its local REA.

Although the motion took effect Sept. 1, the members tabled any further action until they could look into the matter more.

"We will make every effort to get our questions answered and our differences worked out," said Axtman. "We will try to get consensus from the board and if not the decision will go to a vote."

Axtman said she will look into whether or not the state counts the number of children at the non-public schools when they calculate the number of students at Dickinson Public School for the funding formula used for the per-student fees.