Appendix II: States with Legislation Allowing Public Schools To Contract for Alternative Education for At-Risk Students

ARS Title 15-796 authorizes local school boards to contract with "any public body or private person for the purpose of providing alternative education programs." With the approval of the parent or guardian of a student, the superintendent may recommend to the school board that the student be placed in an alternative education program. Students in grades 6-12 are eligible for placement. The legislation was introduced in 1982 and amended in 1986 to include additional grade levels. For more information, contact Jeffrey Flake, Barry Goldwater Institute for Public Policy Research, at (602) 256-7018.

The Dropout Prevention Act, Florida statute 230.2316, grants school districts the authority to contract with private agencies to serve at-risk students.135 The act was passed in 1986. For more information, contact Al Rother at (904) 487-3510.

Education Options (M. S. 126.22), originally named the High School Graduation Incentives Program, was enacted by the Minnesota legislature to "encourage all Minnesota students who have experienced difficulty with the traditional education system to enroll in public and private alternative programs in order to complete high school."136 Using per-pupil basic revenue, districts may establish their own alternative programs or contract with a nonprofit, nonpublic school to provide education for eligible students. (Note: At-risk students may attend private, nonprofit religious schools under contract as long as students do not enroll in religious-oriented classes. In 1995-96, three at-risk students attended St. Bernard Catholic High School in St. Paul, MN.)137 The contract, which must be approved by the local school board, is between the district and the nonpublic school, not the student. The law requires that 88 percent of the state basic revenue amount generated by the eligible student(s) be turned over to the nonpublic school. In the 1994-95 school year, 19 private schools were under contract with local districts in Minnesota serving 1,199 at-risk students ages 12-21.138 For more information, contact Barbara Zohn, Minnesota Department of Education at (612) 296-1261.

New Mexico
In 1993, the New Mexico state legislature passed SB 710 requiring the State Department of Public Instruction to establish a program for at-risk students. The state department may contract for alternative-education services with private, nonprofit agencies who meet department guidelines. SB 710 defines an "at-risk" student as a student who has failed at least three classes in the ninth-grade.139

According to the Oregon Revised Statutes, section 336.635, the parent or guardian, with permission from the local district, may enroll the student in a private or public alternative-education program that has been registered with the Oregon Department of Education. The school district pays the private provider the lesser of a) the actual cost of the private program; or b) at least 80 percent of the district’s estimated average per-pupil operating expenditure. Contract schools are not required to employ licensed teachers. As of 1994-95, there were 67 private alternative-education schools registered with the state Department of Education.140 For more information, contact Leon Fuhrman, Oregon Department of Education at (503) 378-5585.

Senate Bill 1, passed in 1995, is extensive legislation mandating, among other things, that each school district provide an alternative-education program, which may include contracts with private, alternative schools. School districts must allocate to the public or private alternative program "the same expenditure per student . . . including federal, state, and local funds, that would be allocated to the student’s [regular] school . . . including a special education program."141

SB 1 also grants to teachers the authority to permanently remove a student from class "whose behavior is so unruly, disruptive, or abusive that it seriously interferes with the teacher’s ability to communicate effectively with the students in the class or with the ability of the student’s classmates to learn."142 The school district, however, is required to provide alternative education (or see that it is provided) to students removed from regular class.

Says Larry Garcia, alternative-education administrator with the Texas Education Agency, "Texas is dead serious about protecting the academic quality of the classroom."143 SB 1, which replaced the state’s education code in 1995, also contains extensive provisions for the contracting of corrections education for juvenile offenders. Contact Larry Garcia at (512) 463-9649.

In 1986-87, the state legislature granted the Milwaukee Public Schools the authority to contract with private, nonprofit, nonsectarian schools for at-risk education. In 1993, the program was expanded to allow all districts in Wisconsin such contracting authority. Under the terms of state statute 118.153, local districts may contract for educational services for up to 30 percent of their at-risk student population. Partnership schools, as they are known, receive 80 percent of the state aid per-pupil, with the remaining 20 percent allocated to the district central office for program oversight and administration. In the 1994-95 school year, the per-pupil partnership school share totaled $5,260.144

To be eligible, a student in grades 5-12 must be a dropout, a habitual truant, a parent, or an adjudicated youth. Students must also be at least two years behind their peers in basic skills. As of 1993-94, 22 private schools educated 1,200 at-risk students under contract with the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).