New Castle News

Closer Look

December 3, 2013

Our Opinion: Wilmington district avoids trouble with tuition vote

NEW CASTLE — The Wilmington Area School Board’s decision against giving non-resident teachers free student tuition was the right one.

This type of perk — where institutional insiders obtain benefits not available to the average individual — is precisely the sort of thing government should always avoid. At the very least, it creates the impression that preferential treatment is being offered to a favored few.

In this instance, the Wilmington school board was considering a proposal to allow the non-resident children of its teachers to attend district schools without paying tuition. Under Pennsylvania law, districts receive no state subsidies for non-resident students, and tuition is supposed to be charged for their educations.

Basically, Wilmington taxpayers would be called on to cover the roughly $8,000 cost to educate each out-of-district student.

Apparently, a couple of issues were on the minds of board members when they voted 8-1 not to pursue this matter. One dealt with a long-running dispute within the district over the residency of some students. It’s reasonable to ask how the district could wage a lengthy and expensive court fight demanding tuition on one hand, while giving away that tuition to select employees on the other.

Also, anyone following the activities of the New Castle school district is well aware of the scandal there involving teachers who sent their students to city schools for free, even though they lived elsewhere.

So it should come as no surprise that Wilmington board members thought better of any effort to award free tuition to the non-resident children of teachers. We’re sure approval of the plan would have raised quite a few eyebrows among district taxpayers.

That’s especially true when one considers the rationale presented at a recent school board meeting for covering the tuition costs. These included claims teachers receiving the benefit would be more invested in the district and would incur less stress in their lives by being better able to coordinate their work schedules and their children’s activities.

We think a paycheck should sufficiently invest a teacher in the district where he or she works. If not, then perhaps that teacher should look elsewhere for employment. Or that teacher might opt to move into the district and pay taxes there.

As for stress, we’re sure that’s a condition shared by all parents. The simple fact is that the Wilmington school board made the right decision here, and probably spared itself and the community unnecessary grief.

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