Concerns raised about Promise Zone eligibility, equality.

December 3, 2018

Concerns raised about Promise Zone eligibility, equality.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — One Mason County public school superintendent has raised a concern about certain students being excluded from the Mason County Promise Zone scholarship. Jeff Mount of Mason County Central addressed the Promise Zone Authority Board today during its regular meeting and said he was concerned about the authority’s eligibility rules that only allow residents of county school districts to be eligible. His concern, he said, are students who do not live in Mason County but attend a Mason County school through school of choice.

Mason County Central Schools extends into Lake County. The Mason County Promise Zone scholarship may be granted to students who reside in another county, but they must also reside in a Mason County school district. The rules, however, do not allow for students who are schools of choice and live outside the county, in a non-Mason County school district, with the exception of students who attend Gateway to Success Academy.

“To my understanding, we could have a student who has attended Mason County Central schools for 13 years isn’t eligible if he or she lives in Lake County, but there is no residency for Gateway to Success students,” Mount said during public comment. “I heard over and over when I was here last time that this would be as inclusive as possible.”

Board Chairman Jason Kennedy, who is also Ludington Area Public Schools superintendent said the Gateway to Success Academy exemption was initially made because of the charter academy’s high enrollment of online students, many of whom do not live in Mason County. Kennedy acknowledged, however, that the rules were not equitable. He said during the meeting that he was confident the board could come up with a solution.

“Regarding the schools of choice people, I think at first I probably voted against that, I think most of us did,” said board Secretary Nick Krieger. “I’m kind of coming around a little bit if we have enough money I think it’s OK.”

“The residency of the student is through no fault of their own,” said board member Dena Thurston. “It’s where their parents choose to live. We don’t know for sure if the parent works in Mason County, buys has in Mason County. If they send their children to school in Mason County they are most likely spending money in Mason County.”

“If we are going to say that students who don’t live in one of our school districts is eligible for one of our scholarships, it should be the same for all, or if we are going to disqualify one then we should disqualify all,” board member and county administrator Fabian Knizacky said.

Some of the board members said the initial concern was financial. However, the board has budgeted scholarships for 312 students and this year just over 80 students applied and/or rewarded scholarships.

“I think it’s fair to say that when we first started this venture and someone would have told me we were going to raise $900,000 in a short period of time, I would have had my doubts,” Kennedy said. “This is a community that has stepped up to education.”

The Promise Zone scholarship pays for tuition for students to attend West Shore Community College.

Board members agreed that there should be a minimum amount of years a student has attended a school.

The board is expected to discuss it during its January meeting.

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