Gilbert schools seek distance-education funds - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Gilbert schools seek distance-education funds

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Posted: Saturday, June 14, 2008 6:18 pm | Updated: 8:49 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

As the legislative session appears to be wrapping up, the Gilbert Unified School District is still holding out hope that it will be able to join the few districts in the state that receive funding for distance education.

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Students at Gilbert Unified, and most other districts in the state, have to pay a tuition to attend distance education.

To avoid the cost, students need to have a medical need for the home study or live in a distant rural area, too far from a school building.

But seven school districts in Arizona are allowed, under a pilot program offered by the state, to provide distance education at a rate reimbursed to them by the state. Mesa Unified School District is among those districts.

Gilbert Unified governing board president Helen Hollands said it's something the district has been fighting for a couple of years.

Hollands said she finds it unfair to students - many of whom don't even know they are paying for something some students get for free.

School district spokeswoman Dianne Bowers said another issue is the fact that when students do decide to take distance education at another school, the district doesn't get full funding for that student - even if they still attend Gilbert Unified for a full school year.

Bowers said the funding is split between the district providing the distance education and the regular district that the student may attend on a more full-time basis.

"There's an inequity there, that Gilbert students should have to pay for distance learning and Mesa students don't," Bowers said.

The district plans to continue lobbying for a change as this session wraps up at the Legislature, and a new year begins in January.

John Hartsell, spokesman for the Arizona Education Association, said the issue isn't one on the priority list for his organization, but it is a more local issue to the districts that don't get the funding.

Hartsell said, "Certainly, we work at the Legislature to ensure that when education programs are impacted in a financial way, that funding is available to school districts for those programs."

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