City schools crack down on residency


Bonnie Coblentz



Starkville school officials turned down requests from two out-of-district families for their children to attend the city public schools and heard about ongoing efforts to confirm the residency of all students in the district.


Two families requested their children be allowed to attend the Starkville School District. Both families had been released by their home school districts. One came from Noxubee County and the other from the West Point School District.


Superintendent Judy Couey said state law allows one school district to accept students from another school district if the home district releases them. State education funding follows the student, but local tax dollars do not. It costs more than the state pays per student to educate a student in the public schools.



Pickett Wilson made motions to deny the requests and was seconded by Eddie Myles.


"The school district is responsible for the children who live in the school district," Wilson said. "We are under no obligation to accept other children."


Her main objection was the lack of tax money following the child, which means the money paid in taxes by local residents must be used to pay for part of the education of children who live elsewhere and whose parents pay taxes elsewhere. She said local taxpayers are footing the bill for the bond issue, but students who aren''t paying for it would benefit if allowed to transfer into the district.


"I know this places an inconvenience on families, but I think Ms. Wilson is correct," board member Keith Coble said in support of the motions.


On a 4-1 vote with Bill Weeks opposed, the board voted to deny Christy Hill''s request that her children attend Starkville public schools.


They then took up a similar request by Nancy Peeples Craft. Wilson initially made a motion, which she later withdrew, to allow these children to attend, saying this situation was somewhat different than the first one.


"These kids have been here for some time," Wilson said, adding that she thought they could stay for the remainder of the school year and then relocate to the Starkville School District or transition to a new school.


After these comments, Hill, who was in the audience and had just had her transfer request denied, spoke from her seat in protest.


"I could have gotten my children in the district, too, and then I would have been in the same position," Hill said.


After Wilson withdrew her initial motion to accept, the board voted unanimously to deny Craft''s request.


Couey said maybe seven or eight students recently have been allowed to attend the Starkville School District, and most of these were allowed so the student could obtain services not available in their home district. She said a few students have been enrolled from other districts for a long time.


Couey said Assistant Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin is systematically going through student records to confirm their residency documents, and when needed, going door-to-door to determine whether or not a student lives where their parents have said they live.


"We''re asking them to unenroll," Couey said, if they do not meet residency requirements.





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