Public school tuition rates across the tri-county area - the amount families pay to send their children to districts other than the one in which they live - vary as much as the districts themselves.
Though a formula from the state Education Department can help determine the tuition, that amount may not be related to geographical locations or the size of the school districts involved.
For instance, parents can send their child to Fort Plain Central School in Montgomery County for $500 per year, or pay $6,400 to have them attend Wells Central School up in the Adirondacks. Or parents can pay $4,191 per year to send their seventh-grader to Broadalbin-Perth Central School, or pay nothing to send their child to Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School on the other side of Fulton County.
Most of the school districts agree on one thing - if parents want to enroll their out-of-district kids in their schools, they're certainly welcome ... usually for a price.
"If they want to come, the door is open," said Lake Pleasant Central School District Superintendent Ernie Virgil, whose district charges $500 per student per year - one of the lowest rates in the area.
Here's what families currently pay in tuition to send their children to schools outside their own district in the tri-county area, according to information provided by the schools. Each tuition listed is the cost for one school year.
Gloversville Enlarged School District - $1,800 per student.
Greater Johnstown School District - $1,900 per student.
Broadalbin-Perth Central School District - New students: kindergarten to grade six, $3,429 per student; grades seven to 12, $4,191 per student. Returning students: kindergarten to grade six, $3,240 per student; grades seven to 12, $3,484 per student.
Mayfield Central School District - $550 per student.
Northville Central School District, in agreement with Edinburg Common School - $5,900 per student.
Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District - no charge.
Wheelerville Union Free School District- $700 per student (first child), $350 extra per sibling student.
Greater Amsterdam School District - full day: kindergarten to grade six, $1,202 per student; grades seven to 12, $3,689 per student. Students with disabilities: kindergarten to grade six, $9,185; grades seven to 12, $11,672.
Canajoharie Central School District - kindergarten to grade six, $3,500 per student; grades seven to 12, $4,500 per student .
Fonda-Fultonville Central School District - $3,921 per student.
Fort Plain Central School District - $500 per student.
St. Johnsville Central School - no current rate, policy under review.
Lake Pleasant Central School District - $500 per student; $250 per pre-K student.
Piseco Common School District - $500 per student.
Wells Central School District - $6,400 per student.
Only the St. Johnsville Central School District, among the 15 area school districts polled, doesn't offer a program for out of district students.
Interim St. Johnsville Superintendent Ralph Acquaro said his district adopted a policy in 2006 of no new outside-the-district applications. He said no tuition rate was set, but the superintendent will be reviewing regulations.
In the Glove Cities, the tuition rates are fairly similar. The Gloversville Enlarged School District charges $1,800 per student per year, while the figure is $1,900 for the Greater Johnstown School District.
Gloversville Enlarged School District Robert DeLilli said his district doesn't actively seek out-of-district families.
"We don't have a recruiting mechanism, it's just the rate that has been set," he said. "The state has a formula that assists in determining tuition."
DeLilli says that formula is based on various information districts "plug into" the state Education Department to come up with the tuition rate. He said the computation isn't necessarily based on student populations. DeLilli said his district needs to redo its computations, with the Gloversville Board of Education "likely" raising its tuition with the start of the 2011-12 school year.
For this school year, he said, his district actually has no one attending Gloversville schools on tuition.
In the Gloversville Enlarged School District, DeLilli said employees who live out of the Gloversville district, but want to enroll their children there, can do so for free.
That is a common practice among many school districts, officials said.
He said there are "only a handful" of children of district staff this school year attending free.
The Greater Johnstown School District has a longstanding agreement with the Wheelerville Union Free School District, which sends its students to Johnstown High School after eighth grade at the Caroga-based district. The Wheelerville district pays the Johnstown school system $1,900 per student per year. With about 60 students from Wheelerville attending JHS, that amounts to more than $100,000 in tuition per year.
Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education President Robert Curtis said he understands Wheelerville is looking to "foster a better deal" starting with the 2011-12 school year.
Wheelerville Union Free School District Superintendent David Carr said in August his district is "evaluating our options" for the next school year. That district's students could conceivably go to Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School, which currently offers out of district tuition for free.
Also attending out-of-district schools for free are students whose parents abuse the system. School officials say there many instances discovered "after the fact" of parents using, for example, the address of the child's grandparents to get out of paying the tuition.
Mayfield Central School District Superintendent Paul Williamsen, whose district legally accepts tuition from about 60 families, said officials of all area school districts are aware of abuse in the public school tuition system.
"It's a problem," Williamsen said. "There are many stories. It makes it difficult, then the taxpayers pay the bills."
One of the 60 tuition payers to Mayfield Elementary School are Gloversville residents Robert Abdella and his wife, Erica, who reside on Prospect Avenue in Gloversville. They have two boys aged five and six.
"Mayfield has a lot of positive aspects and it's a little smaller, with individualized attention," Abdella said.
But he laughed and said his family may want to consider making a change later in the boys' lives. Abdella said he wants five-year-old Cameron to play football - something Mayfield does not offer currently.
The highest tuition rate among the 15 school districts in the tri-county area is charged by the Canajoharie Central School District -up to $4,500 per student per year. That's $1,312 more than the $3,188 a New York state resident pays in tuition to attend a full year at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
John DeValve of Palatine Bridge, president of the Canajoharie Central School District Board of Education, said the state formula takes into effect such things as poverty levels and other factors.
"We have a modern building," he added, explaining the attractiveness of his district.
DeValve said the Canajoharie district has had many out of district payers, but he wasn't sure how many this school year.
The lowest tuition charge to the public is free offered by Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District, which is currently in merger negotiations with the St. Johnsville Central School District.
Oppenheim-Ephratah Superintendent Dan Russom said he has about 40 students from out of the district attend from such places as St. Johnsville, Dolgeville, Johnstown and Caroga Lake. He said the free charge is a staple policy of the way Herkimer Board of Cooperative Educational Services does things.
"Our policy is we have an open enrollment," Russom said.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org