MUNSTER | The School Town of Munster will no longer accept transfer students living outside of its school district.
The policy change was the result of recent Indiana legislation that took away local control of guidelines regarding student transfers, Munster Superintendent Richard Sopko said Tuesday.
"Right now, any student who enters Munster schools must have a B average and have passed ISTEP-Plus to transfer in," he said. "We don't want to just let anyone in. We want to maintain our standards. We don't want any major discipline problems. We believe the law removes local control, and we're in favor of local control."
House Bill 1381, effective July 1, requires school corporations to establish the number of transfer students the corporation has the capacity to accept. It also provides that, with certain exceptions, a governing body may not deny a request to transfer from another school corporation to a school within the corporation for any reason other than capacity.
Munster officials said for the 2013-14 school year, requests to transfer into the school system were not considered for enrollment unless the request was made by June 15. Students who were admitted to Munster schools prior to the June 15 date or who attended Munster in the previous year can remain in the school system until graduation.
Sopko said the issue of transfer students came up during the referendum campaign. Munster voters passed a tax increase in May allowing the school district to raise taxes 19.9 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to generate $3 million in additional annual revenue for seven years.
The money will go into the school district's general fund to pay for salaries, benefits and utility bills. The School Town of Munster has lost state funding since 2002, Sopko said, representing a drop of 29 percent of its budget. That translates into $2 million per year in funding cuts. The district also ranks fifth from the bottom in per-student funding, he said.
Sopko said the new transfer-student policy will address many of the transfer tuition concerns that residents posed during the referendum process.
"Therefore, non-resident students will not be accepted for enrollment in Munster schools unless they are currently enrolled in the school district or were non-resident students during the 2012-13 school year," he said.
The School Town of Munster has been among those region school districts with the highest number of transfer students. Last school year, the district was up by 85 students, 42 of whom were transfer students.
Munster had 174 transfer students paying tuition in the district last fall. Sopko said it looks like that number might increase by six, bringing the total to 180 students, but no other students will be accepted beyond that.
Last fall, those who wanted to attend a Munster school paid $2,300 for elementary, $2,250 for middle school and $2,362 for high school tuition. It is the same amount for this school year.