PCSD struggles with new Senate Bill 65
October 28, 2011
The Park City School District entered into a consortium this year with six other school districts to establish Utah Students Connect. The program allows students to take online courses, free of charge to the PCSD. Students are also able to take online courses outside the consortium, but it will cost the school district $720 per class, according to Park City School Board President Moe Hickey.
According to Hickey, Senate Bill 65 supports a Statewide Online Education Program sponsored by Sen. Stevenson. The bill passed last July and allows students to enroll in up to two online courses in the first and second year of the bill, three courses in its third year and four courses in its fourth year. He said the school district cannot deny a student if they want to take a class outside the established consortium, but it will cost the school district a chunk of money.
Hickey said that the Weighted People Unit allots for $2,550 per student. The problem he foresees is that if students enroll in classes outside the consortium, it will take away from the WPU money.
For example, if a student takes two courses at $720 each, that leaves roughly $1,110 to cover the cost of that students’ other six courses at the school. Hickey said they could end up spending pocket money to cover the costs of the online courses if students choose to take classes outside the consortium.
"We’re not fighting online courses, but the economics of Senate Bill 65 don’t make sense," he said. "We started the consortium with six other school districts so we could maintain class rigor."
Hickey said if the school district partners with online vendors, they loose the ability to regulate educational instruction and the quality of the classes. He said there are several school districts in Salt Lake City who have negotiated with the online course vendors. The cost for the students at these schools is $85, instead of the $720 PCSD is required to pay.
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"Ultimately there are two fundamental questions: Where did the $720 come from? And the discrepancy of that number and the districts’ that have negotiated with them. We can’t get an answer," he said.
Hickey said the school district is not against students taking online courses and nothing has precluded them from taking the courses previously.
"It’s the inequality of the structure because it makes no economic sense whatsoever, other than the money from the courses going into the general fund," he said.
Hickey said although the Park City School District has the means to adapt to the bill, smaller school districts will have a difficult time.
"When you are talking about districts with a very limited budget, you are penalizing them the most," he said. "They are doing a major disservice to those districts."