Editor’s Note: This letter addressed to Elkin City Schools Board of Education member Frank Beals was submitted as a letter to the editor to The Tribune.
In a recent article posted in the Elkin Tribune, I admired your stand on an issue presented at the April Elkin City School Board meeting. Although you appeared to stand alone, I do not believe that your view on this issue is divergent from much of this community. I taught and coached at Elkin High School for twenty-seven years. As a coach, one of my duties for much of this time was to prepare an eligibility sheet for the athletic teams that I coached. One of the pieces of information on these documents was whether or not the athlete lived in district. It is from these forms that I first realized that nearly one third of Elkin High School’s student body typically lives out of district. The issue that the board was considering appears to be whether or not it is appropriate to hold such students to higher standards with regard to academic performance and discipline. It seems that you alone questioned the legitimacy of such an approach. I too am opposed to such double standards for both economic and moral reasons.
Students who live outside the district pay tuition to the Elkin City School that they attend to supplant the city tax that the parents of students who live in district are assessed. This tuition, however, is not the only funding the school receives for these children. Each LEA in North Carolina turns in an average daily membership for the first ten days of a school year. Based on these numbers, the state government turns over public education funds to local schools. Historically one-fourth to one-third of Elkin’s average daily membership for the first ten days has been comprised of out of district students which the state funds just like in district students. One could argue that one-fourth to one-third of the programs, teachers and athletic teams are justified by the presence of out of district students. Is it sound economic policy to create standards that discourages one-fourth to one-third of the historic base of your school to attend? If you are taking state funding to educate this group are you not committed to both the student and the state to provide the service for which you have already been paid?
Morally, I have a low tolerance for discrimination. I believe that all people are entitled to a minimum amount of free public education which I gladly pay taxes to support. If someone wishes to attend a school with a better academic and athletic tradition than the one to which he is assigned I applaud his initiative and his desire to better himself. How can a school system, in good conscience, create policy that discriminates against such a student and a large portion of the student body solely based on where they live?
Elkin City Schools is an island suspended in a sea of other larger special districts of local education administrative units. For this island to remain afloat, Elkin depends on the presence of students from other districts. Is it wise to create erosion within this base?