Appropriate Advocacy and Joining Forces

The Board of Education will hold it’s regular business meeting this Thursday evening, April 3rd.  As has been the case since the new majority took office, email accounts of parents and community members around the district are filled with notes to encourage people to show up and advocate for a myriad of interests.

 

Noted from some emails circulating, a few from the Gifted and Talented group is expected to advocate for more funding for the GT population (about 10% of children in Jeffco Schools.)

 

It also appears that charter school organizers are advocating for speakers to sign up and request equalization (approximately $7.4 million and just over 8% of children in Jeffco Schools.)  The following “talking points” were sent out at one charter school community, although it includes many errors including a notation that the recent survey reflecting community feedback was flawed and not representative despite more than 13,100 individuals responding and the survey being verified following one individual’s CORA Request for IP Addresses of respondents. 

Here is the document making rounds on emails and being disputed in several blogs the past two days – 14_03_31_Jeffco_Charter_Talking_Points[1]

 

The 3A 3B campaign that was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2012, brought in only $39 million to cover $45 million in proposed cuts.  This charter school document also notes that even though the campaign worked with charter representatives and allocated $100 per student in MLO funding, which is more than neighborhood schools receive per pupil, the funding can be changed despite promises made to the voters.

 

Did you know?

  • A charter school is a public school operated by a group of parents, teachers and/or community members
  • A charter school operates under a charter (or contract) between the charter school and its authorizer, either a local school district or the Colorado Charter School Institute.
  • A charter school is a semi-autonomous public school of choice; its local school district will not automatically assign students to the school.
  • Parents must apply to charter schools if they choose to enroll their child(ren) in a charter school.
  • A charter school generally has more flexibility than traditional public schools as regards curriculum, fiscal management, and overall school operations, and may offer an education program that is more innovative than traditional public schools.
  • A charter school may request waivers from provisions of state law and any state or local rule, regulation, policy, or procedure relating to schools in the school district.
  • A charter school has flexibility through waivers; however, in exchange for this flexibility, the charter school is bound by contract to be held accountable for meeting the performance-based objectives specified in the charter.

For more information on Charter Schools visit http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdechart/faq

 

The following document, published by Jeffco Schools, shows student counts at neighborhood schools (86.61%), option schools (4.54%), charter schools (8.64%), and special schools (0.21%).   See the breakdown here – Choice Enrollment Student Counts

 

Knowing that Jeffco Schools has cut $78 million from it’s budget over the past several years with reduced services to students, larger class sizes, reduced electives, many unfunded mandates from the state (which charters are exempt from in many cases by choice and thus, do not incur the costs of these mandates) and from the predicted budget with only around $200 per student more expected in 2014/2015, there isn’t a possibility of restoring services that have already been cut from the current education of the majority of students.

 

It’s important to note that ALL schools around the district (not just charters) are constantly fundraising to meet the needs of students due to a lack of funding statewide and the deep cuts we’ve endured. 

 

Each interest group is advocating for funding for their special population, with charters having access to additional resources – note the comment about SB-1292 bringing an estimated $200,000 in additional funds from proposed legislation here:    https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=Y29tcGFzc21vbnRlc3NvcmlldmVudHMuY29tfGNvbXBhc3MtbWFpbnxneDoxZTIzNDFiNTg1OWJlNzA5

 

Another email asks “will charters share that with Jeffco neighborhood and option schools?  Will Charters share their grant dollars, bond funds and other monies with neighborhood and option schools?  And, what will be cut from the budget to give these 15 schools $7.4 million?”

 

Colorado clearly has had education funding issues over the past many years, this is not a problem specific to Jeffco.    For additional state-wide education funding FAQs, visit http://www.greateducation.org/statistics-faqs/funding-faqs/

 

Every student in Jeffco Schools shares this “pie” of total funding.  GT students receive a bit more from the State of Colorado as per mandate.  Special education services receive a bit more as per state and federal mandates.  Charter schools receive 100% of per pupil funding but 5% of that funding is held back to purchase services from the district such as nursing and mandated special education services, which can also be argued as a benefit as the costs through an independent provider have been shown to be higher than what Jeffco Schools can provide. 

 

There are so many items a Charter school can choose to contract to have the District do for them. The 5% admin fee nets out at the end of the year to be a bargain for every Charter.  Perhaps the district should start charging the Charters what it really costs, rather than the flat 5%?  Their 5% helps to cover costs for the Charter school superintendent, board of education, county treasurer fees, financial services, benefits, technology, safety & security & insurance.

 
If Charters have SPED or ELL students, they get the same funding a neighborhood school would get for those students (not a lot).  In addition, Charters and all other schools benefit from economies of scale, efficiencies and expertise when they pay the district for other services, such as services for a homebound student, student health, library, Warren Tech, Outdoor lab schools and many more – it’s the choice of each charter to decide what they want to pay the district to help them do.  They can always choose to pay a consultant or other private practice to do those same things for them. 

 

As we give individual groups of students a larger piece of the pie, the students in the middle, requiring no special services and our disadvantaged population of students, have their services reduced.  Those students represent the majority population of our children in Jefferson County.

 

All types of schools serve a purpose to meeting the individual needs of our children and choice for our families is important to many in our community.  There is no winner in the charter schools versus neighborhood schools argument.   

 

Rather than advocating for more services for our individual interests, knowing how minimal our resources are and how impactful cuts have been to our children, wouldn’t ALL students be better served if the community as a whole was advocating for the maximum benefit for the majority and at the state level to demand that appropriate education funding be a priority for all students in Colorado?  Shouldn’t the appropriate action be charter, option, and neighborhood parents joining together to advocate for education funding at a statewide level?  Shouldn’t our Board of Education be leading the charge in this advocacy and asking the community to work together?