Monday, November 20, 2017
Education

Pasco, Hernando schools resolve dispute with PHSC over dual enrollment fees

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Pasco-Hernando State College won't be charging its two feeder school systems dual enrollment administrative fees after all.

College officials told Pasco and Hernando district leaders that they had gotten new advice, suggesting PHSC had more flexibility on the fees than originally thought.

PHSC administrators at one point insisted that new state law required them to charge the districts their share of the instructional and support costs associated with dual enrollment.

"When our agreement was originally negotiated with our school boards, we complied strictly with the letter of the law," college general counsel Steve Schroeder said.

"After considering what had been done throughout the state by other colleges and school districts on this issue, PHSC determined that flexibility on the issue of administrative fees was not unacceptable among legislators and the State Board of Education."

Noting the different approaches that other districts and colleges took, superintendents Kurt Browning and Lori Romano had criticized PHSC's unyielding position that they pay $37.73 per student per semester in fees.

They didn't take issue with paying tuition, as mandated. But they struggled with the administrative fee charge, particularly for students taking college courses at district schools from district teachers.

They gave up the battle after failing to negotiate a different deal, acknowledging the law was not on their side. The Florida Legislature changed the law in 2013 to shift much of the dual enrollment cost from colleges, which offer the courses and credits, to school districts, which provide the students who do not pay for the program.

The new law caught districts, and the State Board of Education, off guard. They called for reconsideration.

Browning even led a statewide task force of superintendents to research the situation and recommend solutions to lawmakers. Several legislators have filed bills for the 2014 session seeking to refine the dual enrollment program and its funding.

When visiting Tallahassee for their own lobbying efforts, PHSC officials "found out the flexibility wasn't frowned upon like we thought it was," Schroeder said.

He sent new language to the school districts proposing that each agency be responsible for its own administrative fees.

"Provisions in the agreement regarding the payment of tuition and other costs will remain as originally negotiated," he said.

Browning expressed satisfaction with the proposal, which still requires official approval.

"I'm thrilled," Browning said. "It's in the best interest of our students, our families and the college."

"I think it's a very good thing," said Romano. "The impact on the district from those fees was very substantial on our budget. It's not something we had to pay for in the past."

Once formalized, the change would be retroactive for the current academic year.

Staff writer Danny Valentine contributed to this report.

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