- Associated Press - Saturday, April 6, 2019

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) - A city school district in northern Mississippi says it is losing money because of students being enrolled in the wrong place.

Thirty-two students who live in the city of Columbus were improperly enrolled in Lowndes County schools for part of the school year, The Commercial Dispatch reported.

After county school officials discovered that the students live in the city, the 32 were transferred to city schools. But state funding will remain with the county school district.

State funding for the academic year is based on average daily attendance in October and November of the previous year. School districts receive roughly $6,000 per student.

Columbus schools would have received about $192,000 from the state next year if those 32 students had attended the right school district all along. The city district has filed a complaint against the county school district with the Mississippi Department of Education.

“The school that kicked them out, they decided to send them back to our district,” the Columbus school board president, Jason Spears, said at a meeting Wednesday. “So, let’s just say students who live in the city went to the county. When the county did the residency check after the check has been cashed, they send the student back here, we educate them the rest of the year but they keep the money.”

Lowndes County School District board attorney Jeff Smith, who also serves as a representative in the Mississippi Legislature, said that at the beginning of each school year, the county district requires parents to provide proof of residence, such as rental agreements, mortgages and utility bills. He said some parents provide false proof, so the district takes steps to catch them throughout the school year, including school administrators following children home in the afternoons.

Smith pointed to the current state accountability ratings for both districts as a reason parents would want to “sneak” their children into the county schools. Lowndes County is rated a B overall, while Columbus is a D district.

“The county is not doing anything wrong other than being a (B) school district that (students) are trying to flee to,” Smith said. “The long and the short of it is that you have a really good school district … that attracts kids (and) you got an F or a D school they should be going to that they don’t want to go to.”

Spears said Smith’s statement was reminiscent of previous derogatory comments the legislator has made about students “having good reason” not to go to Columbus schools. Spears said such comments are improper from a legislator whose constituency includes some Columbus Municipal School District patrons.

“It really is bothersome that we don’t have more support for our school district, (and) for our representative to make that comment a second time,” Spears said. “The Columbus Municipal School Board continues to work hard with our local delegation. We don’t want to feel like in some way we are going to be left out in the cold because we may not be the preferred option by our local delegation.”

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Information from: The Commercial Dispatch, http://www.cdispatch.com

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