Council member William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5) has agreed to accept for more study a measure his committee recently approved that would expand the power of the city's little-known Education Institution Licensure Commission and impose new fees on private and parochial schools here.
The bill was to have been slated for council floor action at a June 15 scheduling meeting, but Council Chairman Arrington Dixon took it off the agenda.
Dixon said then that he had received numerous complaints about the bill. Four days earlier, he had sent a letter critical of the bill to private school parents, inviting them to tell the council how they feel.
Under the bill, the commission would be given enforcement power to bring charges against private schools that do not meet the city's requirements for private education. The commission now lacks the authority to impose sanctions against schools as a way of enforcing its regulations.
The bill would also require all private schools here to pay into a new $750,000 escrow fund that would be used to reimburse students who attend schools that close during the school year.
Representatives of the private schools lobbied strongly against the bill, arguing that many of the longtime institutions here have better academic programs than public schools and are not likely to go out of business abruptly.
In a June 25 letter to the council, Terrence Scanlon, a member of the board of education for the Catholic Archdiocese and president of the home and school association at Our Lady of Victory School in Northwest, said the measure would have a devastating effect on the 41 Catholic schoools in the city, costing an estimated $94,348 the first year alone.
"There is no history whatsoever of any fraudulent or deceptive practices among Catholic schools," Scanlon said. "Why can't we and other reputable nonpublic schools be exempt from the bill?"
Commission officials, limited by a small staff and lack of authority to regulating smaller institutions and out-of-state schools that offer classes here, claim they should be allowed to regulate all private schools.