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Mt. Diablo district Q & A regarding charter schools

By Theresa Harrington
Sunday, May 22nd, 2011 at 11:09 am in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Mt. Diablo schools Superintendent Steven Lawrence sent out an e-mail to parents on Friday with Questions and Answers regarding charter schools.

Since this hasn’t yet been posted on the district’s website, I’m posting it below.

Some Clayton Valley High School teachers are proposing to convert that school to a charter in fall 2012. In addition, the Flex Academy charter approved by the County Board of Education is taking applications and hasn’t yet decided whether to open in fall 2011 or 2012. It has turned down the district’s offer to locate at Glenbrook Middle School, after that campus closes in June.

Here is the superintendent’s message:

“Where Kids Come First

May 20, 2011

CHARTER SCHOOL INFORMATION

Over the past weeks, community members have raised questions about charter schools. Below, we have compiled the most frequently asked questions and the answers to them.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF A DEPENDENT CHARTER?

Dependent charters are schools that have been converted from an existing public school in the district to a charter school in its entirety. Though rare, districts have opened new small high schools or programs as dependent charters.

The authorizing board is legally responsible for the budget development, special education services, governance, debts, and other liabilities of the dependent charter.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF AN INDEPENDENT CHARTER?

Independent charters are organized by 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations and are independent legal entities with their own governing board.

These charters are responsible for securing their own facility but can file a Proposition 39 request to use a district facility at below market rates.

Independent charters are responsible for their own insurance, budget, hiring, employment rights, and special education services.

WHAT WOULD THE FISCAL IMPACT BE ON OTHER DISTRICT SCHOOLS IF CLAYTON VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL (CVHS) CONVERTS TO A CHARTER?

If any District high school converts to a charter, the district would have to pass along additional funding to that school which would then have to be cut from elsewhere in the district. In this case, if CVHS converts to a charter, the district will have to provide the school an additional $1.651 million beyond the current revenue being generated by CVHS.

This is due to the following State funding formula for conversion charter schools:

- The State uses the amount that unified districts receive per student (currently $4,876.08*) then subtracts the charter school funding per student amount at the high school rate (currently $5,808.00*). This $931.92 per student difference must be made up by the district budget. Therefore, with CVHS’ current enrollment a conversion to a charter would create a reduction to the district budget of $1.651 million.

This number assumes that the governor’s tax extensions fail to make it onto the ballot. The amount will be slightly higher if the Governor’s budget is approved.

1. Should CVHS elect to convert to a charter, the district must develop a plan for an additional $1.651 million cut to the remainder of the district. Therefore, the superintendent will invite all district stakeholders to meet to address these cuts.

WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE CVHS CHARTER PETITION?

This is not a district-lead process. The details of the charter and timetable are up to the individuals developing the CVHS charter proposal.

Should the district receive a charter proposal, it has 30 days to hold a general public hearing on the proposal. The district also has 60 days from the date of receipt of the petition to grant or deny the charter petition.”

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[END SUPERINTENDENT MESSAGE]

This information varies slightly from what the consultants said at last Monday’s meeting with teachers at Clayton Valley High School. They said Clayton Valley would get its revenues directly from the state (not from the district). They agreed that the state would fund the school at the high school rate, instead of the unified rate.

However, they said this would cost the state more money and suggested that state Legislators might eventually change this rule, when they realize it is costing the state more. If the money is coming out of the district’s budget, then the state wouldn’t be paying more. This is something I’ll need to research.

Also, at the Clayton Valley High meeting, many people acknowledged that the district and charter organizers have a contentious relationship right now. Yet, if the district approves the charter, it could provide services and a certain amount of oversight.

Because of this, the consultants advised organizers to try to work collaboratively with the district as much as possible. Some teachers suggested it might be better for the charter if the district denies its petition, so it could then possibly be approved by the County Board of Education, which does’t harbor any ill will against the organizers.

The charter consultants said they have never heard of a district approving a charter out of “spite” (meaning the district board would approve the charter just so it could make things more difficult for it).

Do you think the Mt. Diablo district and Clayton Valley High School charter organizers can work collaboratively to put kids first, according to the district’s motto?

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  • g

    I think MDUSD will use anything it can get its hands on or invent, if necessary, to prevent losing power over CVHS. So can they work cooperatively? Not a chance!

    Look at how the District back-handed its so called “offer” to Flex. Fear of losing funding for the hundred or so students it might lose, it spoke of nothing in the way of cooperation in a way of educating local students, but rather said, in effect: We will charge you up-the-ass for every breath you take and every step you make on “our” property, and we will not give you a final figure for how much that will be until after you plop down about $20Grand as a down payment and you sign the open line contract.

    Now let’s look for some “Sunshine” in how it handled Flex:

    Did the Board hold the requisite “OPEN MEETING” to advise the Public that Flex was asking for space, and that it was considering making an initial offer to Flex, and who/what was being negotiated? Not that I am aware of!

    Did the Board then have a subsequent OPEN MEETING to advise the Public, and allow comments from the Public regarding a proposed Final Offer? Not that I am aware of.

    Brown Act – Open Meeting Laws; Negotiations real property:

    Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, a legislative body of a local agency may hold a closed session with its negotiator prior to the purchase, sale, exchange, or lease of real property by or for the local agency to grant authority to its negotiator regarding the price and terms of payment for the purchase, sale, exchange, or lease.

    However, prior to the closed session, the legislative body of the local agency shall hold an open and public session in which it identifies its negotiators, the real property or real properties which the negotiations may concern, and the person or persons with whom its negotiators may negotiate.

    For purposes of this section, negotiators may be members of the legislative body of the local agency.

    For purposes of this section, “lease” includes renewal or renegotiation of a lease.

    (Amended by Stats. 1998, Ch. 260, Sec. 3.)

  • http://www.k12reboot.com Jim

    Interesting that in the entire discussion of the CVHS conversion so far, I have seen no figures from the district on what MDUSD actually spends to operate that high school — funds that they will no longer have to spend if it becomes a charter.

  • g

    Ah…and another reason they may be fighting so hard to hold on to CVHS: I’m trying to confirm that if it breaks out into a Charter, CVHS can request its fair proportionate piece of the New Facilities Improvement Bond! If they did ask to take on a piece of that already approved bond (and its debt), that could kick some of Eberhart’s solar dollars into the sole hands of CVHS to rehab or improve its own facility the way it wants. The Codes are very complicated, so if anyone knows for sure, you could save me a LOT of studying! ;)

  • Theresa Harrington

    Yes, the district would have to pass along Measure C bond money and I believe the charter would be able to spend it however it wants. But, since the solar project is estimated to help it save on electricity costs, it may still opt to move forward with that.

    Regarding the budget, Marshall Mayotte, CFP, CPA from Excellent Education Development, shared a preliminary budget with CVHS teachers that showed the school could receive about $13 million in revenues and spend a little more than $12 million, keeping between $400,000 and $800,000 in reserves (depending on final funding).

    He cautioned that the numbers could change based on the state budget and possible deferrals, which could force the school to borrow money.

    Here are his assumptions:

    “2012-13 staffing costs will be equal to district provided estimated salary and benefit costs for 2011-12, plus $761K. The $761K cushion is being created to fund the following:
    o Normal step-and-column increases
    o A fall orientation program for freshmen
    o A summer school program
    A 10% increase in the current health insurance costs.
    Funding will drop at least by $350 by 2012-13 from today.
    A reasonable estimate of other expenditures.
    No furlough days.
    No reduction in benefits.”

    He said the numbers could change in a “good way,” if

    “The staff decides to reduce class sizes further.
    The school builds new labs.
    The school adds programs to enrich the academic environment.
    Co-pays might be reduced to increase morale.
    Additional funds might be set aside for retirement benefits.
    The school may decide to increase class sizes due to increased overall enrollment.”

    Mayotte said that he would likely revise the numbers several times before finalizing them.

    If the governor’s proposed tax extensions pass, funding would probably not drop by $350 per student and the state would likely disconinue deferrals.

  • http://www.k12reboot.com Jim

    Thank you, Theresa. Did Mr. Mayotte include in his assumptions the number of students that these figures were based on? It is valuable to know what the charter plans to spend, but I am also curious what the district currently spends on operating CVHS, if anyone knows (and they may not — some districts do not total up all “site costs” in any meaningful way). Wouldn’t it be nice to make a “before and after” total dollar comparison? And of course, knowing what MDUSD spends currently would help us understand how much MDUSD will “lose”, on a net basis, when the funding goes to the charter.

    G gets the “Understatement of the Year Award” for noting that “the codes are very complicated”. I don’t really know anyone who claims to understand CA ed funding completely. All of the legalities, dedicated funds, arcane accounting, waivers, exceptions, and general obfuscation leave the public at a big disadvantage.

  • g

    Thank You Theresa! The nice thing about a fair allocation of the Measure C funds might be that CVCHS could negotiate amount and type of solar and come out with excess available funds for some future needs. What they maybe need to look at now is whether they should get their legal eagles on top of perhaps stopping MDUSD from any attempts to fast-track projects and expenses on the school while they are in negotiations. That Measure C calendar is crucial.

    As to borrowing funds, there is no doubt they will need seed money. But, I think once they receive the Charter they will be eligible for some pretty cool grants that float around out there just for Charters.

  • Billy Bob

    I would bet my bottom dollar that Gary and Stevie are plotting ways to make this as hard as possible for CVHS. I bet Gary’s little rant on his blog was the opening chess move in that regard.

  • Doctor J

    King Lawrence is cranking up the propaganda machine. It sounds to me more like a carnival huckster with the shell game. Lets get the truth and not unsubstantiated threats. King Lawrence leads by fear not by facts.

  • Jurrs

    It is sad that people see a charter school as some sort of tonic for what ails our schools. One thing all charter schools have in common is that they require increased parental involvement, perhaps the greatest indicator of a students potential for success. It is a parents job to look out for their own childs best interest, but take a moment to think about the students that do not have advocates. Who looks out for them?