Fewer students in schools is costly to Preston County

KINGWOOD — Recent informational school meetings have brought the issue of Preston students attending school outside the county into the public eye again.

Preston County Schools lose state funding when students go out of county, as the state bases funding in part on enrollment.

According to Preston Schools Attendance Director Carol Riley, 21 Preston County students are attending Monongalia County schools this year, 18 are going to Tucker County Schools, two each to Harrison and Taylor, and one to Marion.

Many more than the transfers — about 240 — are home schooled in Preston. They also do not count for state aid.

This year Preston began offering high school level home schooled students a virtual school program. Those who accepted will be included in the state’s enrollment count for Preston County. Next year, Preston School Superintendent Steve Wotring said, the program will be available to middle school home schooled students.

A few students from other counties transfer into Preston County. That includes one each from Monongalia and Tucker counties, two from Garrett County, Md., and three from Grant County.

The state department of education said that the state average amount of funding per pupil is $4,230.17 for the 2018-‘19 school year.

“That amount varies by county based  on the statutory calculations, which include the county’s local share.”

The state provides funding for salaries of professional educators and service personnel based on student net enrollment. Preston Schools Treasurer Katrina Kerstetter noted last week that enrollment fell by 104 students this year in Preston County, so in 2019-20 the county will receive state funds for fewer salaries.

According to figures provided by the State Department of Education, state aid allowance on a per pupil basis ranges from zero in Doddridge County to $5,672.40 in Clay County. Preston receives $4,598.53. Monongalia County gets $3,339.23 per student.

Allowances vary because of the local share funding. Mon’s is more than Preston’s — $2,494.32 versus $1,541.15.

How transfers work

Both county boards of education must approve transfer requests. Wotring noted at a school meeting last week that the board of education seated in July has been denying out of county transfers.

Those parents have the right to appeal the denial to the state board of education.

On Monday, Wotring will attend the first state level hearing of a parent’s appeal of the Preston board’s refusal to allow a student to transfer out of county.

According to the State Department of Education, the state superintendent appoints a hearing officer to hear appeals and make a decision, which the state superintendent can decide to either uphold or decide in the alternative.

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