Committee approves Voc-Tech tuition increase

WESTFIELD – The School Committee has approved a tuition increase for out of district students that will generate nearly $1 million for the city.
The board voted Monday, Sept. 10, to increase the out-of district tuition from $13,800 to $15,277, an increase of $1,397 per student for the 2012-13 academic year at Westfield Vocational Technical High School. The district also accepted more than 60 out-of-district students this year, up from 52 last year.
Chief Financial Officer John Kane said that the state guideline for that tuition is based on the cost of providing a vocational education.
“The district is suppose to charge what it actually cost to educate a (vocational) student,” Kane said. “Historically Westfield has had a tuition below that cost. You can only go up 10 percent a year and you can’t exceed the per-pupil cost to educate a kid. The city’s tuition is reviewed and approved by the DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) under Chapter 74 which regulated vocational programs.”
Currently, the tuition from out-of-district students goes into the city’s general fund, unlike School Choice funding, which goes into a revolving account administered by the School Committee.
School Choice is funded through the state Chapter 70 program. About $5,000 per student of Chapter 70 funds is withheld from the home district of a student electing to participate in the School Choice Program. That money is then added to the Chapter 70 funding of the receiving district. Vocational schools are not eligible for School Choice programs or Chapter 70 funding.
The tuition is paid to Westfield by the students’ home district and goes into the city’s general revenue account. Mayor Daniel M. Knapik has returned $100,000 of those tuition funds to Voc-Tech to support shop programs last year, a supplemental allocation usually made through the City Council in January.
Knapik attempted to set up a dedicated revolving account last year, but Massachusetts General Law dictates an all-or-none approach to allocating the collected tuition.
Knapik said Friday that he will submit a $100,000 free-cash appropriation to the City Council again this year.
“I asked the Voc-Tech administration Monday at the (School) Committee meeting to begin putting together a priority list for use of that funding,” Knapik said
Kane said that in addition to the basic out-of-district tuition fee, the also approved a 10 percent increase in the fee accessed to the home district of vocational students with an IEP (individual Education Plan). The district will assess a fee of $5,113 per student with a special education component.

To see Monday’s school committee meeting, click here.

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