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Saline commissioner questions detention approach

SALINA, Kan. (AP) -- Some Saline County school districts apparently delayed sending students to juvenile detention so that could include the youths on the district rolls and qualify for more state funding, a county commissioner alleged.

Commissioner John Price accused the Salina School District and other districts of keeping the students until "count day," The Salina Journal reported (http://bit.ly/H1CM7T ).

Lt. Sean Kochanowski of the Saline County Sheriff's Office told commissioners Tuesday that the average number of juveniles from Saline County being held at the North Central Regional Juvenile Detention Center went from about a half dozen a day in August and September to 12 "after count day," which is Sept. 20. That's the day that districts give the state the number of students enrolled in their schools. That enrollment figure is used to calculate the amount of money districts receive in per-pupil aid.

Price said the district is kicking the students out and allowing the North Central Regional Detention Juvenile Center to educate them while school districts take the money from the state for the students.

"That's corruption," Price said. "The districts are keeping kids until count day so they can get the money from the state, then they are turning them in."

Bill Hall, Salina School district superintendent, denied Price's claim.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," Hall said. "Our focus in school districts is to keep kids in school -- not finding ways to get them out."

Hall said the district's goal is to increase the graduation rate, which includes the ongoing construction of an alternative school. That school will allow students who are at risk of dropping out an alternative to the traditional high school setting.

"We understand from a community standpoint and economic standpoint that it is in the best interest of the students for them to stay in school and get their diploma," Hall said. "We support our kids. We want them to stay in school. We will do everything in our power to make that happen."