By Ross Markman
Representatives of two Hutterite colonies will ask something of Havre Public Schools Tuesday night that they've been asking for several years to become a public school.
The East End and Hilldale private schools will request that Havre Public Schools take over the schools in their respective colonies. If approved, the schools would be staffed and funded by Havre Public Schools.
Havre school board chairman Jim Heberly said today that the colonies have approached the board several times in the last decade about taking over the private schools. The answer has always been no.
"I've been through this three or four times. It's just the same song, third or fourth verse for me," Heberly said. "Everybody's been against it. My feeling still remains the same."
Heberly cited several reasons why the Havre school board has denied the request, the foremost being money.
"Number one, it will cost the local taxpayers a lot of money, and number two, the Hutterites just want to use public money to finance a private school," Heberly said. "That's what it comes down to."
If the board approves the colonies' request, the district would receive state dollars for each of the Hutterite students it educates, starting in 2004-05. The average number belonging, or ANB, is based on the previous year's enrollment.
The cost of hiring staff and running the schools, however, would exceed the amount of additional ANB funding the district would get, Heberly said.
As a result, the district would possibly have to increase the local mill levy and/or reduce the amount of money allocated to in-town elementary and middle schools, he said.
On the Hutterite side, the colony would benefit from the property tax it now pays for public schools, East End School administrator Joe Waldner said.
Only public schools get that money, Hill County Treasurer Carrie Dickson said.
"Havre Public Schools doesn't help us a bit, yet all of our tax money we do not receive," Waldner said.
"The kids would get a better education and our property tax dollars would benefit us," he added.
The East End school, about 20 miles north of Havre, teaches children in first through eighth grade. There is no high school.
"Our kids just graduate after the eighth grade," Waldner said. "We feel the kids get their best education right in the field."
The Havre school board, Heberly said, has offered to bus the children 17 from East End Colony and 20 from Hilldale Colony to attend Havre schools. The colonies have rejected the idea.
"We've offered to bring them to Havre many times. We have plenty of room in our schools to handle their kids," Heberly said. "That's always been an option we've proposed to them."
Busing colony kids to Havre schools is unfeasible, Waldner said, because it would strip the students of their German studies.
"It would destroy our culture if we bused the kids to Havre. The kids need to learn our mother tongue," he said. "I've got to keep the kids here from 7 in the morning til 8:30 and for an hour after 3:30 in the afternoon for German."
If the school board approves the request, Waldner said, the East End colony would continue to teach German before and after school. Otherwise, he said, it would stick with the Havre curriculum.
"We're just trying to get the kids the education and some of our property tax dollars back," he said.