|Legal Opinion: |
Text of Document: April 8, 1996
This letter is in response to your question regarding whether the City School District may admit children who live outside the city. It is my understanding that the school has been doing this for a few years and charging tuition. The charter clearly gives all children who reside in the city the right to attend city schools, however, in my opinion this entitlement does not prohibit the board of education from also permitting non-resident children to attend city schools. This interpretation is consistent with state general law that authorizes city school districts to admit and charge tuition to non-residents.
The relevant provision of Section 17 of your city's Charter (which was last amended in 1989) currently provides as follows:
All children who are now or may hereafter be entitled under the laws of the State of Tennessee to attend the public schools in _____ County and who reside within the corporate limits of the City of _____ shall be entitled to attend city schools.
This provision clearly gives children who reside within the city the right to attend city schools. In my opinion, it does not necessarily prohibit the board of education from admitting non-resident children into city schools.
However, the language of this statute prior to its latest amendment may raise a question as to the intention of the new section. Prior to 1989, the same provision provided:
All children who are now or may hereafter be entitled under the laws of the State of Tennessee to attend the public schools in _____ County, and who reside within one (1) mile of the corporate limits of the City of _____ shall be entitled to attend the city schools as though they were residents of the city; however, any child living in _____ County whose parent is a full-time employee of the City of _____ or the _____ Board of Education and who lives outside the one-mile radius may attend city schools as though they were residents of the city. Upon termination of the parent's employment, the child may be allowed to finish the school year, but may not thereafter attend city schools.
This section allowed non-residents who lived within one mile of the city and the children of the city employees to attend as though they were residents of the city. The obvious purpose of the change in 1989 was to remove the right of these non-residents to attend City Schools as though they were residents of the city. However, as stated above, neither the current nor the previous provision expressly prohibits the city schools from admitting non-residents students and charging tuition.
In addition and most significantly, state general law provides that city school districts may admit and charge tuition or fees to students residing outside the city. T.C.A. § 49-6-3003(a)(1). The statute goes on to provide that the tuition charged to non-residents may not exceed the per student, per year an amount equal to the amount of funds actually raised and used for school purposes from the city during the preceding school year divided by the number of pupils in average daily attendance during the preceeding school year. T.C.A. § 49-6-3104(a)(2). Therefore, the General Assembly has obviously authorized city school districts such as your city to admit non-resident students.
The City Charter has designated almost complete control over the operation of the school system to the local Board of Education. See Section 17. Therefore, the decisions regarding admission of non-resident students are left to their discretion, subject to other relevant state laws.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions regarding this matter.
MTAS Legal Consultant