Collierville Schools board members voted Tuesday, March 4, to approve an open enrollment policy that would open enrollment in their schools to children outside the town limits but within Shelby County on a space available basis at no charge.
The board vote was unanimous and came the day after the Germantown Municipal Schools board approved an open enrollment policy that charges non-Germantown students a $200 a year fee to attend Germantown’s school system.
The Collierville board heard from some Collierville residents who advocated charging tuition as well.
But all five school board members said they support a no tuition policy at least for the start of the suburban school system. The policy could be reviewed and changed by the board at any time.
School board chairman Mark Hansen said the idea of charging students outside Collierville’s borders was discussed at the outset of the district’s formation including in talks that led to the settlement of the federal court lawsuit over the local schools reformation.
Hansen viewed those talks as a commitment not to charge tuition within Shelby County.
The Collierville open enrollment policy spells out that transportation will not be provided for those in-county students who are accepted in Collierville schools with the 2014-2015 school year.
Students who live outside Shelby County would pay approximately $3,700 in tuition and those living out of state would pay approximately $7,800 under the formula in the policy.
Some of the citizens favoring a tuition requirement for open enrollment said they didn’t feel no tuition was fair when Collierville residents paid property taxes.
School board member Cathy Messerly, however, pointed out that sales tax revenue is what is pledged in terms of local revenue to the new school system.
Hansen and Collierville superintendent John Aitken vowed that the school system will have a place for every child who lives in Collierville and will do its best to find places for those outside Collierville, particularly those living in the town’s annexation reserve areas.
But both said space will be “tight” in the Collierville schools especially with several hundred students who live in Collierville and attend Houston Middle and High Schools, in Germantown, facing what Aitken termed “tough choices” for their parents.
The Germantown school board’s passage of a tuition provision signaled that Germantown and Collierville leaders had failed to reach an agreement specifically for those Houston students who live in Collierville.
No further talks are scheduled for the moment. But Hansen and Aitken said they are open to further discussions.