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Date Posted: 10:22:55 02/13/11 Sun
Author: CharterStarter, Too
Subject: Re: About that list with a bit of clarity
In reply to: Larry 's message, "About that list" on 06:45:16 02/13/11 Sun

Good morning Larry,

I wanted to go through the list again in response to your comments and provide some more information.

Regarding T&E...Ivy and CCAT are getting T&E, that is true. But the other new schools are not and have not. We hear they will get the adjustment in the midyear, but the T&E is supposed to be (according to the statute) a part of the QBE calculation (which was supposed to be applied in July-August). I do understand timing, etc., but the Commission statute is clear on this. Budgeting should have occurred, and data should have been collected and applied to the calculations. It wasn't. And this is posing a tremendous hardship on our schools. This is unacceptable.

Ivy and CCAT have received their nursing and ARRA categorical grants, and these are on the allotment sheets as you mention. BUT, the NEW Commission schools have not gotten ANY categorical grants. Their allotment sheet shows $0 for all. Curious, no?

The Commission schools do not have a state, federal, and local report on the DOE website to see their balance of revenue from these sources. Systems do. Systems have federal funds flowing - I imagine these are Title I, Title II, etc. I was curious about the charters and how this was flowing, as we can't check on the report. I'm also curious about timing for receipt of federal funds, for cash flow purposes.

Transportation, why should Commission schools get it? Well, because they are a public school. One of the push backs charters sometimes get is that every student can't drive to school, and this could potentially exclude economically disadvantaged students from attending. Some charters run their own transportation. Some outsource out to transportation companies. Some provide MARTA vouchers for students. Some just use transportation for fieldtrip, etc., but almost every school provides some sort of transportation, and currently gets NO funding for it. As I understand it, transportation grants are provided based on students served, bus routes, etc. So in essence, the district is transporting less students and keeping the same funds to do so. And yes, I do understand transportation is grossly underfunded for the districts, but nothing is more grossly underfunded than $0. As for the SPED transporting - as we discussed before, if that child shows up, the charters are obligated by law to serve them according to their IEP, including transporting. The law does not contemplate practical or affordable. The districts deal with the same, although the impact to their budgets would not, of course, be anywhere near as much. All the more reason to obtain a share of transportation funds to use as needed for their school.

I believe sometimes things in legislation get done because they make a law more palatable to those who oppose, so you give up the battle to win the war. This is probably the case for the oversight fee district and Commission charters pay. There IS a cost for oversight, no question, and I understand to some degree (a small one) capturing this cost somewhere. Do I think the charters should bear this cost? No. I do believe 3% is on the excessive side. At my school (district authorized), we pay the authorizer more than we can pay our principal. 3% sounds like not alot until you put some numbers to it, and then you realize it's more than you think. I do believe the Commission is mindful of this situation and are being responsible by keeping a lean staff. Not much we can do about that presently.

I understand the use of SPLOST and the impracticality of it in this situation. My point, however, is that the districts are not having to take their QBE funds to fund a capital project. If a charter wants to build a building, it has to do a capital campaign, convince a local lender to lend (dicey), find a federal grantee for a loan guarantee or come up with it from fundraising initiatives, and ALWAYS pay out of their per pupil - industry standard ranges from 15-20% coming right off the top of per pupil. Inherently, this causes inequity. It's an access issue, and I think all charters should have access to funds for capital projects in the same manner as any other public school. You see, if I lived in Gwinnett Co. and voted for SPLOST, I'd be casting a vote for your kid. But my kid, if they were in a charter school, could never have the chance for someone to cast them a vote for a new or even renovated building (and Commission schools can't even access unused district facilities). We can't even get on the referendum. And back to your daughter - no,she didn't directly benefit from that capital project, but indirectly she did. If the district did not have to take the funds from their general fund, then she benefited because there was more in the kitty to spend on ALL kids (including her). And if it was HER school they'd built, then it would have been a direct benefit.

Equalization...well, the law is specific in providing a share of equalization funds for Commission AND district charters, and why wouldn't it? And yet...Ivy, CCAT, and ALL of the new schools haven't seen dime one until this month (Ivy and CCAT for 2 years now). Now, thinking about it, if charters don't get equalization - provided for the purpose of making up for a low tax base in the community they serve, the charter students are not funded equitably. For Ivy, that's $108,464, or $230 per student, or 4% of their budget. Ask the district about what a 4% cut (on top of austerity) would do to their cash flow. Now, getting into the practical side of this - who thought to budget for it? Who thought of the process to ensure that the charters received it? The answer is nobody, which is exactly why our Commission charters are going without. That's unacceptable.

As for 5 mill share, it was not applied last year to the Commission schools....but suddenly, without notice, in the August allotment, it was deducted. Right or wrong on the deducation, my biggest gripe with this situation for Ivy and CCAT is that they dropped substantially in their per pupil and were given absolutely no notice it was going to happen so that they could change their cash flow projections and plan accordingly. In the spring, had they known this was going to change, they may not have hired, they may not have grown a grade level, they may not have made purchases for their instructional program. But in August, when school has begun, it's too late. This, is unacceptable.

As for the new schools, they expected (very reasonably) their funding to be based on how it was calculated for Ivy and CCAT last year. What a surprise to see that more than 20% of what they thought was coming...didn't. Again, without notice, without explanation (and still not explained). Interestingly, the FBO reviewed every single Commisison school budget and made quite detailed commentary about each (good commentary, I might add), except...NOT ONCE did they comment on revenue projections being over inflated, and NOT ONCE did they remark on 5 mill share being excluded in these projections. And who has to deal with this? The charters - and their students and staff. This is unacceptable.

I ran some calculations again last night. The FBO has told us that the issues with the Commission schools have been fixed (except for T&E, which is coming in the mid year adjustment). So, I took the QBE (without T&E for the districts and charters) and applied all deductions and earnings to both from the 1/14 allotment sheet. When I got to the bottom line, the 2 schools I did the numbers on BOTH came up -550 to -650 less per pupil than the districts, which is well over $200,000 in revenue for both. Perhaps this is right and the difference is caused from the programmatic differences in the students they serve, but I'd like it if someone would check who can do this large algebra equation quicker and easier than I can. If it IS programmatic, then I will feel better about things being corrected (except for T&E), and my next focus will be on making sure this nightmare Ivy/CCAT and the new schools have experienced never happens again.

Thank you for your offer on the webspace. I'll keep that in mind. Frankly, I believe it's a pretty lucky thing for some that parents of these Commission school students HAVEN'T mobilized. They were certainly within their rights to do so with this debacle. As for lobbying for some fixes in legislation, I'll leave that, as you mention, to GCSA, as that's their bailiwick and not mine.

I do not believe that it is too much to expect our public servants at the DOE to plan and budget accordingly to comply with "new" laws, to communicate in a timely, clear, and comprehensive manner, and to apply transparent processes to their work. I would hope and expect that someone will ensure that this happens going forward (you?)

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