The Medford School District is paying out more than $500,000 after realizing it is obligated to give money to nearby districts whose students attend Medford charter schools.
District Chief Financial Officer Brad Earl said Monday that because of an oversight by the business office, Medford had not made payments to nearby districts since the end of the 2009-10 school year.
As per Oregon charter school laws and Medford's agreements with Madrone Trail and Logos charter schools, the district had been receiving 20 percent of per-pupil funds for K-8 students attending those schools, 5 percent for high school students, in exchange for administrative oversight.
But if a student lives outside the district, Medford is supposed to keep only half that money and pass the rest along to the home district.
"We got a call from a neighboring district and they said, 'Gee, I think you're supposed to send us some money,' " said Earl.
Because the payments aren't normally sent out until after the end of the fiscal year, Medford has missed only its payment for 2010-11, and was able to make the 2011-12 payment on time.
The money for the current school year won't be dispersed to other districts until September, Earl said.
Earl said that in the past, so few students had attended charter schools in other districts — usually only a few students to Armadillo Technical Institute in Phoenix — that Medford didn't have to exchange much money with other districts.
He said the rapid increase at Medford's charter schools over the last few years was unexpected, and the district overlooked its obligation to pass money on to other districts.
"Nobody anticipated a Logos," Earl said.
Of the roughly 770 students attending Logos, a charter school for homeschooled students, only about 50 percent to 60 percent are from Medford, according to administrator Joe VonDoloski.
Another 20 percent come from other districts in Jackson County, and the remaining students are from outside the county.
Of the 210 students at Madrone Trail, Medford's Waldorf-inspired charter school, 88 live outside the Medford district, according to school administrator Joe Frodsham.
Frodsham was shocked to hear that other districts are receiving any money for students attending Madrone Trail.
"That's ridiculous," said Frodsham. "At least the Medford School District is giving us some services. Why should the other districts get diddly squat? That just floors me."
Medford is paying back nearby districts $285,000 for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years, and estimates show it may pay another $230,000 for the current year, according to Earl.
The Central Point School District received the largest payment from Medford — $73,800 for 2010-11 and 2011-12 — followed by Eagle Point, which received $50,000.
Superintendent Phil Long said the district is looking into whether any charter schools outside of Medford, including online schools, owe Medford any money under the law.
Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or email@example.com.