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Affluent Westchester School District Now Charging Big Bucks To Let Outsiders In

RYE BROOK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Would you write a five-figure check to send your child to class in another town? One district in Westchester County has started advertising for students to do just that.

The tiny public school district in Rye Brook has a lot going for it -- awards on the walls, classrooms full of seemingly happy students, rooms full of computers and sprawling athletic facilities. The superintendent here believes it's something outsiders will pay to get their children into.

"We are open for business. We are available as an alternative for parents when they're making a choice," Blind Brook-Rye Union Free School District Superintendent William Stark said.

Faced with falling enrollment, the district is offering school slots to students from outside the district, charging more than $19,569  per year for grades K-6 and $21,500 per year for 7-12, although it only costs the school $400-$500 per year to put an outsider at an empty desk.

On paper, it's a win-win.

"You get a first-rate education. You hear about charter schools. You hear about private schools. You hear about parochial schools. This is just another option," Stark said.

And it's a way to keep the already high local property taxes from getting any higher. Without tuition payers or tax hikes Tracy Taylor, the elementary principal, said she'd have to start cutting.

"You're looking at increases in class sizes and, unfortunately, that might mean a loss of some teachers," Taylor said.

Other high-end districts like Bronxville, Mamaroneck, and Edgemont allow students to "tuition-in" but this one is the first to actively seek applicants.

The students in Rye Brook all have friends in private schools, but believe this place is competitive, especially at half the price.

Some parents are going to pay for private school. It's a good public school. It's definitely worth it," one student said.

The district is marketing the schools by direct mail in a 15-mile radius around the town. Consider that Greenwich, Conn., is just a stone's throw away, it's a sure bet that come fall some of the students arriving in Rye Brook will be from out of state.

Tuition rates are set by the state using a complex formula. Rye Brook said it hopes to fill 24 slots with outsiders next year -- a take of roughly $500,000.

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