Sunday, September 8, 2013

CDA Press: Price of Public Education Increasingly Includes Legal Fees

Posted By on Sun, Sep 8, 2013 at 10:00 AM

The Coeur d’Alene School District recently considered privatizing school busing. The plan was expected to save $1 million, but after public opposition, the board stepped away from the idea.

It was a conversation that went on for several months and included 64 hours of legal work. Each hour of that work cost on average $180 in attorney fees. That left the district with a $11,520 bill.

According to this morning's Coeur d’Alene Pressthat’s just one of the items adding to the $238,000 in attorney fees the school district incurred from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013. Last year, the district spent $38,000 on lawyers.

Construction projects and associated contracts needing review contributed to that $200,000 spike this year, after voters approved a $32.7 million bond for the district.

Another big ticket legal item in 2013 was a complaint filed against the district with the Federal Office of Civil Rights, but privacy laws keep the allegation under wraps. It was still 46 hours of legal work, costing the district $8,280. Then there was the board’s decision to nix the Primary Years Programme, prompting some parents to file informal grievances with the district, which attorneys reviewed.

It is only recently that legal fees have started taking up so much of the school budget. The school district signed a contract with its attorneys, Ramsden and Lyons, with a $10,000 per month retainer. The district hopes that will cut legal costs by at least a third.

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