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Sheridan sues education department in enrollment dispute

The Sheridan school district on Tuesday filed suit against the state Department of Education, asking the Denver District Court to bar the state from enforcing a claim that Sheridan owes the state money because it allegedly received funding for ineligible students.

The state claims Sheridan should pay back $1.2 million received for students whom the state believes weren’t eligible for state funding.

At issue is student enrollment in Sheridan’s 21st Century Program, under which some high school students also take classes given by Arapahoe Community College.

Those students are part of a larger, long-running dispute between the district and CDE over whether graduation rates for those students should count in the district’s graduation rate. The district believes CDE has not given credit for the graduation rate of those students, artificially lowering Sheridan’s accreditation rating.

The district is entering its final year on the state’s accountability watch list for low performance. Sheridan appealed that rating to the State Board of Education last year, but appeal was denied. If Sheridan does not prove it has boosted student achievement — including its graduation rate — the district faces state sanctions.

After that, the district claims, CDE began an audit of Sheridan’s enrollment and incorrectly concluded the district owes the state money it received for ineligible students.

Sheridan leaders are scheduled to release a statement on the lawsuit Wednesday morning. CDE officials were not immediately available for comment.

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