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Date Posted: 23:11:28 02/07/11 Mon
Author: CharterStarter, Too
Subject: Continuing the Dialogue
In reply to: Larry 's message, "I see only one thing that looks unusual" on 10:51:09 02/07/11 Mon

Again, thanks for really looking into this. I want to be sure to say first that the concern is broader than just Ivy - ALL of the Commission schools are underfunded and are dealing with issues Ivy dealt with last year. District approved schools have dealt with many of the same issues as well. I will address Ivy below though since that was where we began our dialogue.

The DOE and Commission were provided numbers for the school for students enrolled in the spring AND again in the fall once the children arrived. The law states that they will be funded on the PROJECTION, not the actual. From a strictly logical standpoint, it does not make sense to me why the funding for almost 200 kids would be held for over 6 months to make sure that a few didn't accidentally get funded. The October FTE count could have made any adjustments required, either up or down. And even if one allows for the October FTE count to be the "official" (which again, goes contrary to the explicit and implicit provision in the statute), it's now over 3 months past that. There is just no good reason for this kind of delay - for Ivy or ANY of the schools.

You mention that there was no need to investigate further, as the discrepancy disappeared...Here you are right - the discrepancy in FTE finally caught up. But if you take their per pupil at the end of last year and compare it to what they are receiving right now, they have dropped substantially - about $2000 per pupil. The issue is clearly not resolved.

Thank you for your suggestion about using averages and not relying on these - to some degree, I agree; however, it is a decent barometer of how in/out of the ballpark you are. I do understand that there will be come discrepancy for a number of reasons - T&E, SPED, and other factors - I think that a $2400 discrepancy per pupil is rather a lot. I don't have Ivy's actual FTE count for SPED, gifted, etc., but it does make me wonder if they are being funded for these new kids in these areas (keeping in mind that the new Commission schools JUST RECEIVED funding for these programs). The reason I ask is that on the 2010 allotment sheet, they show both gifted and category V kids and on the 2011 sheet, there are 0. Seems strange that they could add that many kids and serve none in either program. Could be a coding thing on their part - or could be something to do with the funding. Just seems odd to me.

As for the comparison with GSMST, that in and of itself is an apples and oranges comparison. To start, the LEA start up doesn't pay a 3% "fee". Secondly, the LEA start up has access to SPLOST, bond revenue, etc. They are earning equalization cash. They receive transportation funds (indirectly through service to their students.) So we cannot even begin to discuss inequities in actual funding calculations because inherently they exist before we even begin. As for differences in students served - there you are also correct. Ivy serves EVERY STUDENT WHO WALKS THROUGH THEIR DOOR. GSMST has had entrance requirements published on their enrollment documents for a number of years - which is prohibited by the Charter Schools Act. It's not by chance they serve 63% of their population as gifted....and 0 SPED and 0 remedial students. But that's a different conversation for another day.

When I was looking at comparisons between Ivy, I did so with the district wighted averages for % of students Ivy served in each- for Gwinnett, that's about $8300...versus Ivy's $5800. A gap may exist for natural reasons inherent in student population, but that sort of gap is excessive.

Digressing for a moment away from just Ivy and looking at some of the other Commission schools...when first looking at the discrepancy months ago, I thought perhaps it was the equivalent local funding calculation throwing things off...but after a little more digging, I realized that it was actually the state calculations that were off. I checked program to program per pupil (apples to apples), and in some cases, the Commission schools were at less than 70% of the district state averages. The question is why? For starters, the schools (including Ivy) are not getting their proportionate amount of equalization dollars. Look at Ivy - $0. Gwinnett gets equalization. This is clearly provided for in the statute for Commission charters. Transportation is a categorical grant - they are not receiving a proportionate share of that either. Take these things and the lack of funding for T&E and special programs, and the reason disrepancy between the Commission schools and the district schools exists is evident. No matter what their SPED population was, mathematically it would be impossible for them to come close to the district per pupil.

I agree with the oddness of a drop in local revenue. As I understand it, 2011 revenue is now being used for calculations, and reasonably, there could have been a bit of a drop due to the economy. $102,000 is a huge amount (proportionally) though. And if the drop was caused by loss of revenue, then why did it end up back with GCPS? That happened for a specific and purposeful reason. Regardless, it shouldn't have dropped for the logical reason you state.

Thank you for recognizing the huge disrepancy in the drop in per pupil in the equivalent local funds. It's a substantial drop. I look forward to you finding out what caused it, as I think that might be a big part of the difference (along with the other missing funding I noted above).

Thank you for asking me to recheck my figures - I believe for 2010 I divided by 287 instead of 306. The difference is about $500. So as a correction, Ivy went from about $7200 down to $5800. That is still a substantial drop given they've added students. Let me note that they didn't receive equalization or transportation in 2010 either, so the $7200 was low then.

I look forward to hearing from you. This is a good conversation and one the schools have been craving for some time.

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