Their View | End the war with charter schools

July 12, 2014 

State College Area school board member David Hutchinson continues the board’s losing war against its own charter schools. ( The hijacking of the charter school movement,” CDT Tuesday).

Since 1998, the school district has lost every battle in this war; every refusal to approve a charter is overturned; every state Department of Education Appeal Board decision is lost; every arbitration hearing is lost; the district lost in Commonwealth Court.

Over 100 total confrontations all lost at great expense to taxpayers.

Hutchinson, other board members, the teachers union and Pennsylvania School Boards Association should reread all the findings. Solicitors for other districts do.

Hutchinson agitates mostly about $5 million transferred from the $126 million district tax revenue to its charter schools.

In 2014-15 the district will spend $18,500 per student (budget expenditures/enrollment).

By contrast, 468 charter students cost only $10,900 per student.

Charter schools pay their own expenses — buildings, furniture, supplies, maintenance, employee compensation and administration.

Charter students cost 59 percent of the district’s per $18,500 student cost. The district central office retains 41 percent ($7,600 per student) for overhead to provide services like very limited transportation and questionable supervision.

Yet the superintendent whined that he has neither staff, funds, nor other resources needed to supervise charter schools (C-NET, March 11, 2013).

Charters do not cost $5 million; they save $3.6 million.

Yes, educating the districts’ most profoundly affected special needs students contributes disproportionately to the district’s total per student cost.

Charters are prohibited by law, however, from cherry-picking other special-needs students as Hutchinson alleges.

Yes, pension funding is double-dipped. It is a very complex issue. School employee pension is a calamity. Message to Hutchinson: Call PSERS and your legislator, not the charter schools.

In the past 10 years, core school district enrollment (6,794) decreased 7 percent; high school enrollment decreased 14.8 percent. However, enrollment (about 1,300 students K-12) at district charter, religious, and private schools is increasing rapidly. That is 16 percent of all students. Why is that?

If the public wants to see firsthand the disrespect shown to its charter schools by the school board, view the C-NET board meeting video for March 11, 2013. It is an embarrassment to the community.

A charter school consistently receiving 100 percent performance compliance reports from the Pennsylvania auditor general and not a single negative comment after a three-month review by the district’s own committee was on the edge of failing school board approval. It was nitwittery.

Over 100 parents arrived at the next meeting, 52 parents asked to speak, to educate the school board.

Fortunately, the board immediately approved charter renewal and grade expansion.

Otherwise another lost court case by the district.

End the war and embrace the district’s not-for-profit charter schools. Parents want the choice. Taxpayers appreciate the reasonable cost.

I have no affiliation with a charter school or any group that does.

Don Gordon lives in Patton Township.

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