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AGO 1961 No. 33 - June 05, 1961
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

DISTRICTS ‑- SCHOOLS ‑- APPORTIONMENT OF STATE FUNDS FOR ATTENDANCE IN JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOLS

(1) Under § 1 (2), chapter 175, Laws of 1961, any high school district, nonhigh or union high school district, offering a junior high school program accredited by the state board of education is entitled to receive an additional one‑fifth times the actual days attendance in the 7th, 8th and 9th grades.

(2) Where a high school district operates and claims attendance for the 9th grade of the junior high operated by the high school district, under § 1 (2), chapter 175, Laws of 1961, it may not claim attendance for such class attendance under § 1 (3), chapter 175, Laws of 1961.  The 9th grade of a junior high school program operated by a nonhigh school district and for which it receives attendance under § 1 (2), chapter 175, Laws of 1961, will not affect the apportionment of any high school district except possibly to reduce the number of students whose attendance may be claimed.

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                                                                    June 5, 1961

Honorable Louis Bruno
State Superintendent of
Public Instruction
Old Capitol Building
Olympia, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 61-62 No. 33

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested an opinion of this office interpreting chapter 175, Laws of 1961 (S.B. 352) which relates to the apportionment of state funds.  Specifically you desire an opinion on the following questions:

            (1) Are nonhigh school and union high school districts eligible to qualify for the weighted attendance factor provided for in § 1 (2), chapter 175, Laws of 1961?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            (2) In the event that nonhigh districts are eligible to receive the weighted attendance factor, how would the ninth grade reduction provided in § 1 (3), chapter 175, Laws of 1961 be applied to the high schools involved?

            We answer these questions in the manner set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            During its regular 1961 session our legislature passed chapter 175, Laws of 1961, which relates to the apportionment of state funds to local school districts on the basis of attendance.  Section 1 provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

            "The total attendance credit to be allowed to each district shall be ascertained by adding:

            "(1) The total number of actual days attendance in elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools therein;

            "(2) An additional one‑fifth times the actual days attendance in theseventh, eighth and ninth grades therein regardless of the school organization plan and regardless of whether such grades are housed in a building or buildings separate from other grades:Provided, That the district is offering a junior high school program accredited by the state board of education;

            "(3) An additional two-fifths times the actual days attendance in the tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades therein regardless of the school organization plan; and such additional two-fifths times the actual days attendance in the ninth grade if the district is not receiving attendance credit under subdivision (2) of this section:  Provided, That the district is offering a secondary program accredited by the state board of education;" (Emphasis supplied)

            It is an oft-quoted rule of statutory construction that in interpreting a statute the intent of the legislature must be  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] ascertained and given effect and this intent is to be determined primarily from the language of the statute itself.  Driscoll v. City of Bremerton, 48 Wn. (2d) 95, 291 P. (2d) 642 (1955).  Our court has further stated that where the language of an act is plain, free from ambiguity, and devoid of uncertainty, there is no room for construction.  State ex rel. Washington Bank v. Bellingham, 8 Wn. (2d) 233, 111 P. (2d) 781 (1941);Ernst v. Kootros, 196 Wash. 138, 82 P. (2d) 126 (1938).  We will now proceed to apply these rules in answering your questions.

            By chapter 175,supra, the legislature has prescribed the method for ascertaining the total attendance credit to be allowed each school district in this state.  The importance of this statute cannot be overemphasized since a great portion of state school funds is apportioned to school districts on the basis of attendance credit.  In computing the attendance credit allowable, each district is entitled, under the statute, to the total number of actual days attendance in elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools operated by the district.  In addition, districts offering junior high school programs and high school programs,accredited by the state board of education are entitled to what is referred to as a "weighted attendance factor."

            Question (1):

            Your first question is whether nonhigh school districts and union high school districts are eligible to qualify for the weighted attendance factor provided in § 1 (2) supra.

            In our opinion, any school district "offering a junior high school program* accredited by the state board of education" is entitled to receive an "additional one‑fifth times the actual days attendance in the seventh, eighth and ninth grades . . ." § 1 (2) supra.  There is nothing in the statute to restrict the right or eligibility of nonhigh districts or union high schools to qualify for the attendance factor prescribed.  These districts are eligible if they meet the specific requirements of the statute outlined above.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Since some question might be raised as to the authority of a union high school district to operate a junior high school, we direct your attention to RCW 28.57.330, which reads as follows:

            "The directors of union high school districts shall determine what grade or grades above the elementary grade shall be pursued and maintained in such schools.  The directors of any union high school district may admit to their school pupils residing in their district belonging to any grade not lower than the seventh.  The teachers of union high schools shall keep such records and make such reports as are required of teachers in the districts composing such union districts, and shall make such other reports as may be required by the superintendent of public instruction."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Clearly, under this statute, a union high school district may operate a school for grades seven through twelve.

            It should be noted that a union high school district (RCW 28.01.050) is a legal entity separate and apart from the component districts of which it is composed.  (See AGO 53-55 No. 338 [[to H. Hanson, State Representative, on November 3, 1954]].)  And, lest there be any confusion concerning our views on the question presented, we feel you should be advised that in order to qualify for the attendance credit provided by § 1 (2) the union high school district itself would have to operate the junior high school.  A junior high school cannot be jointly maintained and operated by the union high school district and one or more of its component districts and with the apportionment shared between them.  The language of the act indicates a clear legislative intent that apportionment be made to a single school district.

            Question (2):

            We do not see where a serious problem is raised by your second question.  Since the weighted factor is dependent upon "actual days attendance" the apportionment to the high school district will be made on this basis.  The only "reduction" involved, if it can truly be called a reduction, will be in student enrollment in the ninth grade operated by the high school district which will necessarily affect apportionment.  Section 1 (3) reads as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            "(3) An additional two-fifths times the actual days attendance in the tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades therein regardless of the school organization plan; and such additional two-fifths times the actual days attendance in the ninth grade if the district is not receiving attendance credit under subdivision (2) of this section:  Provided, That the district is offering a secondary program accredited by the state board of education;"

            If both a nonhigh school district and a high school district operate ninth grades for theirrespective districts‑-each will be entitled to the apportionment provided in chapter 175, Laws of 1961, for which they qualify.  Since the high school district will not be receiving attendance credit for the ninth grade of a junior high operated by a nonhigh school district, § 1 (3) will not require a reduction in the claimed attendance in the high school.  Generally, in respect to the question presented, it will only be where the high school district operates and claims attendance for the ninth grade of the junior high (operated by the high school district) that a reduction in apportionment as provided in § 1 (3) will be warranted and demanded.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

ROBERT J. DORAN
Assistant Attorney General

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