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Dougco sues state in enrollment count dispute

The Douglas County school district has made good on its threat to sue the state Department of Education in a $4.2 million dispute over counting of high school students.

The suit, filed earlier this week in Denver District Court, asks that the department be barred from collecting the $4.2 million the state believes the district needs to repay.

The district telegraphed its intention to sue in a harshly worded news release and letter in June. Dougco went public with the dispute after CDE completed an audit and concluded the district owed the money.

At the center of the dispute is a new high school schedule the district adopted in 2012 in response to budget cuts. The district went from seven daily periods to eight. The department calculated that some high school students didn’t attend enough minutes of class to qualify as full-time students and be counted as such for state reimbursement to the district. The dispute involves the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years.

The lawsuit claims, “Defendants’ rigid calculations meant that, for example, a student who attended a full class schedule during the school year, ultimately graduated with a 4.0+ GPA, and gained admission into Colorado School of Mines qualified as a ‘half-time’ student for funding purposes.”

The suit also claims the department didn’t properly calculate local revenues in its audit and violated the district’s local control rights.

“The department tried to negotiate a settlement with the district in order to save both parties the expense of going through the court system, but unfortunately the district chose to file suit against us,” said Associate Commissioner Leanne Emm, adding that she couldn’t comment further.

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