LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - The Long Beach School District has an A rating, according to a study done by the Mississippi Department of Education. That rating is why many military families choose to enroll their students in Long Beach schools.
But, they never expected to have to pay annual tuition.
"We knew moving here that we weren't going to have to pay any tuition, and that was important to us. So, it was unexpected," said Tina McCleland.
Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, the school district will begin charging off-base military families $850 per child.
McCleland recently received a letter from the school district to inform her and her husband about the new tuition policy.
"I think everyone was just frustrated that it was so short notice, and that military, we thought we were exempt from some of the tuition here," said McCleland.
According to the new policy, families who live on base will not have to pay tuition. A statement from Superintendent Dr. Jay Smith, it says in part:
"Our first financial obligation is to the hard working families who live and pay property taxes within our school district. Families are welcome to send their children to our schools free of charge when they choose to rent, lease, or purchase a home within the City of Long Beach."
Moving to Long Beach isn't an option for McCleland right now, and having her son switch schools isn't something she's comfortable doing.
"It would be an emotional burden on our children as military to have to uproot them again," said Mccleland.
The new policy doesn't just single out military families. All students who live outside the district will now have to pay tuition, but Mccleland says she would like to know more about why the decision was made.
"Military does get a discounted amount from our non-military families...So, we do get a discounted amount, but they said it is what it is and there's no payment plans available. That was all I've heard from the school district," said Mccleland.
"We certainly understand that there are municipalities across the nation who are finding ways to balance their budget. We understand the circumstances and necessity for this new policy," said Capt. Cheryl Hanson, with the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport. "While it's unfortunate that we're no longer going to receive the tuition-free status that we've had in the past, we're continually thankful for the benefits we've had for the past several years."