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New restriction for home based programs

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on May 12, 2011 at 9:30 am with No Comments »
May 12, 2011 9:50 am

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn is expected to end reimbursements for parents whose students who take classes at home while enrolled in public schools. Now lawmakers may go even farther.

For the home-enrolled students taking part in what are known as Alternative Learning Experiences, some school districts have paid for private lessons as substitutes for physical and fine-arts classes.

“I was really surprised to learn we were using taxpayer dollars to pay for kids’ ice-skating lessons or horseback-riding lessons or Girl Scout or Boy Scout dues or a YMCA membership,” said Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, R-Enumclaw.

Under Dorn’s rule change, school districts will no longer be able to pay parents stipends or reimbursements for those activities. But they could directly pay businesses that provide those activities.

An amendment put forward by  Dahlquist and added to HB 2065 by the House this week would go further and prohibit districts from paying for activities that aren’t offered to students in regular schools.

It’s unclear how much it would save, but under an older version of the bill alternative learning programs were expected to take a $34 million hit.

There’s an effort to retool her amendment in the Senate. Representatives of school districts that pay for “experiences” outside school complained at a hearing Wednesday it goes too far in limiting the activities. But at least one district acknowledged the basic framework of the amendment would stand and districts would no longer be able to offer the same kind of outside experiences.

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