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Mt. Diablo district defends charter information

By Theresa Harrington
Sunday, May 29th, 2011 at 4:46 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

Although Friday, May 27 was a furlough day in the Mt. Diablo district, the following e-mail was sent out to parents Friday evening (dated Thursday, May 26). It reasserts information previously disseminated to the public that contends a charter conversion would financially hurt the district:

“Where Kids Come First
May 26, 2011

The charter school advocates provided a news release to the CC Times and local blogs that stated:

‘… the District’s statement about passing on additional funds is based on legislation that since January 1, 2010 is no longer in effect. Recently legislation (SB 191) was passed with the intent to ensure that unified school districts would not be hurt by their conversion high schools. While some confusion remains, this legislation was enacted to ensure that the conversion school will receive revenue limit funding from the state as would any new charter school — based on its student ADA. We are in the process of confirming this with the California Department of Education and should be able to provide more detail soon.’

Therefore, whose understanding of SB 191 is correct?

Prior to publishing the May 20th News Update, we worked with School Services of California to ensure that our understanding of SB 191 and the relevant Education Code sections was correct before we shared any information with the public. Today, we confirmed the accuracy of our analysis with the California Department of Education, and had School Services review the this News Update to ensure its accuracy. It is always our goal to provide fact-based information to our parents and our community.

Please allow us to provide some historical perspective on charter school funding.

1. When charter schools were first established in California, the State utilized, and continues to utilize, statewide average rates of funding per unit of Average Daily Attendance (ADA) by four grade level spans, K-3, 4-6, 7-8, and 9-12 in calculating the General Purpose Block Grant (GPBG). The funding of the charter school occurred in the following manner:

The school district granting the charter reported the ADA to the State. The district received its regular level of revenue limit funding per unit of ADA for the students reported. Pursuant to Education Code section 42238 (h)(7), the State then subtracted the revenue limit for the charter school based on the GPBG calculation from the district’s revenue limit and passed it directly to the charter school.

When the State established this funding model, it was cost neutral to the State on a per pupil basis because districts were funded based on their original revenue limit per ADA, regardless of the grade span of the charter.

This created significant financial issues for unified districts in which a high school charter formed. In a unified school district, the high school charters were receiving substantially more in pass through funding from the State than they were generating in dollars per ADA to the district. This caused the District to have to make up the shortfall.

2. To remedy this inequity, Senate Bill 319 of 2005, did two things.

First, districts no longer had to include the attendance of pupils of charter schools in their calculation of base revenue limit with two exceptions: basic aid school districts, and unified school districts in which a school had converted to a charter on or after January 1, 2005.

For the two exceptions, the bill instead changed the calculation of GPBG. For high school conversion charters, their level of funding would be equal to the actual unrestricted revenues expended per ADA for that school in the year prior to its conversion (approximately the same as the District’s base revenue limit per ADA). This left the approving District whole, but caused conversion charter high schools to be funded at a lower rate than other comparable startup charter high schools.

3. In 2009, Senate Bill 191 sought to remedy the difference in funding levels between conversion charter high schools and startup charter high schools in unified districts. Under SB 191, charter schools established through the conversion of an existing public school within a unified district after January 1, 2010, are funded at the statewide average GPBG level under Education Code section 47633. (This returned the conversion charters to their original funding as described in section 1 above.)

However, what SB 319 and SB 191 did not change is that unified districts must still include the ADA of a conversion charter school in its revenue limit funding. Then, the amount calculated for funding the charter school pursuant to the block grant is subtracted from the district’s revenue limit funding pursuant to Education Code section 42238(h)(7). SB 191 reinstated the district shortfalls previously removed by SB 319.

Therefore, a high school with 1,700 units of resident ADA that converts to a charter school would have its revenue limit calculated as follows (using 2010/11 per ADA figures):

The charter school submits its ADA to the district to be funded pursuant to the GPBG. (EC 47633) 1,700 ADA x $6,142.00 = $10,441,400.

The district submits the ADA to the State and be funded at its revenue limit, $5,206.08 per ADA. (EC 42238) 1,700 ADA x $5,206.08 = $ 8,850,336.

The State would then subtract from the District’s ADA the amount needed to fund the Charter School at its general purpose block grant rate. (EC 42238(h)(7))

District receives: $ 8,850,336
Less paid to charter: (10,441,400)
Net loss to district: $(1,591,064)”

The district also included a letter from School Services of California, to back up its analysis:

“May 26, 2011
Dr. Steven Lawrence
1936 Carlotta Drive
Concord, CA 94519

Dr. Lawrence,

School Services of California, Inc., has reviewed the analysis completed by the district regarding the impact to the District related to a conversion charter school. We are in concurrence with the District’s analysis specific to the scenario of the
conversion charter school.

Michele A. Huntoon, CPA
Associate Vice President”

I will contact the charter conversion committee to get their response.

Teacher Pat Middendorf, who is one of the people leading the conversion effort, told the Clayton Business and Community Association (CBCA) Thursday night that the district never communicated its original budget response to the organizers, even though they had tried to open a dialogue with the district before going public with their campaign. Instead, the CVHS charter organizers didn’t see the district’s response until the superintendent sent out his memo.

Do you think the district and charter organizers should communicate directly with each other instead of issuing conflicting statements to the public?

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11 Responses to “Mt. Diablo district defends charter information”

  1. Jim Says:

    Yes, Theresa, they should. MDUSD should be working proactively and collaboratively with the charter organizers to find the best solution for the students — not issuing dueling press releases in the hope that they can turn some parents against the others. Is it too much to hope for such enlightened leadership from this district?

  2. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, I have just posted notes from two interviews with Sue Brothers, the newly appointed CVHS principal.
    She says she is willing to work with teachers to improve the school:

  3. mdusdmomx4 Says:

    Jim, it was the Clayton Valley Charter that posted the Dueling release. Curious why you blame the District, why not start where it began, the CVHS Charter Organization. This greatly concerns me if these teachers at CVHS are leading this Charter conversion, they do not have all their ducks in a row, they did not have the $10,000 (they had to borrow) and I heard they do not have enough teachers on board either. It appears that they are moving too fast and are not completely organized. Why not slow down and do it right and have the money needed to begin with. Not the way to start something and I am not convinced yet. I also read on one of the blogs that teachers and or parents stated, well if we don’t succeed, we can always go back to the MDUSD. Wow, another great concern on the organization.

  4. Anon Mdusd Mom of 2 Says:

    If they don’t have the support they need from the teachers then your concern is moot, the charter can’t happen. I am not sure we know enough to determine if they have their ducks in order or not. They have over a year before they would take on the charter responsibilities on a daily basis. The communications they have posted seem well-written and well thoughtout. I can understand why they need to get the process started, it is a lengthy process especially if they need to appeal MDUSD’s decision, which is likely.

    I can’t speak for Jim, but my take on blaming the district is because they are putting the CVHS charter on the defensive. They are trying to stir up the community. Regardless of what they may say, MDUSD does not support the charter. Gary’s comment on his blog makes that clear.

    I agree with Jim from the standpoint that the District should work with any proposed charter. Maybe MDUSD doesn’t have all the answers and could learn something that could benefit all the kids in the District. Their anger, and what I perceive as arrogance, will be what will keep change from occurring in MDUSD.

    Why aren’t they asking why parents/teachers are so disappointed that they would go to these lengths? When Walnut Creek parents fought to leave MDUSD several Board members looked back in hindsight and were critical of the Superintendent’s lack of attention to the issues at Northgate. Why haven’t they learned from that event, isn’t it similar?

    If you are a parent why not wait and see how it unfolds. It could be a great thing. If you are part of the administration or Board why not reach out and work with Clayton Valley, after all it is about what is best for the kids and what we have now really isn’t working for many.

  5. Jim Says:

    Mdusdmomx4 — My point wasn’t about “who started it”. Theresa asked whether “dueling releases” was the way to continue the discussion, and I felt it was not. But that is how MDUSD decided to respond. It is up to the district, if they really care about the CVHS concerns (and not just the prospect of lost funding), to reach out to the people who are disatisfied with the school. That has been the problem for too long, on too many campuses: MDUSD responds only when there is a threat of lost revenue or bad publicity. They don’t seem to feel, fundamentally, that they ought to be in a continuous dialogue with their customers (parents and students). As an organization, they just don’t get it.

    As far as the conversion folks not having “all of their ducks in a row”, if you haven’t ever been involved in getting something like this off the ground, you may not be aware of how much preparation it takes to “do it right”. You have to start somewhere, and that means building up the organization, the information, and the funding from scratch. Frankly, I admire the work and preparation that the teachers and the rest of the community have done to bring it this far. Other MDUSD schools are watching, and learning, from this experience. Finally, I don’t understand at all your comment about “we can always go back to MDUSD”. That is simply the reality. If the charter effort fails, the school would go back to the monopoly that controls it now. What did you think would happen? Fortunately, the experience of numerous conversion charters in S. California suggests that there is every reason to believe that a conversion charter at CVHS can help that school, and that community, be MUCH more successful in educating their students.

  6. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon MDUSD Mom of 2: You are correct that people have been complaining about a lack of discipline and a lax “culture of learning” at CVHS for a few years.
    In June of 2009, I wrote a story about a freshman girl who was suspended in May 2009 from CVHS after videotaping a paper ball fight in her math class. Parents and students had complained all year about chaos in the classroom, but they said nothing was done until the video was sent to then-interim Superintendent Dick Nicoll.
    The story created an uproar and prompted many other parents to contact me regarding concerns about the environment at CVHS.
    The staff had been trained in a program called BEST — Building Effective Schools Together — which stresses positive reinforcement for good behavior and consistent consequences for breaking school rules. But it appeared that this program was not consistently implemented schoolwide.
    In August 2009, I wrote a follow-up story that stated:
    “This year (2009-10), Clayton Valley and some other district schools are supplementing BEST with a reform that challenges teachers to work together in ‘professional learning communities,’ where veteran teachers coach their newer peers in classroom management and lesson planning.
    The program requires teachers to identify struggling students early and try to connect them to school, rather than waiting until the first semester is over and punishing them for failure.'”
    Based on the CVHS charter movement, it appears that the Professional Learning Community is not working as well as administrators hoped it would and that BEST is still not being implemented consistently.

  7. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, Speaking of PLC, I wonder how many MDUSD members will be attending the Las Vegas junket on June 6-8 for PLC ?

  8. anon Says:

    I think its ironic that the district releases information that clearly shows that there will be a significant financial loss to the district and the people who complain are the same people that demonize the district when they are not 100% transparent. There is no reason for the district to communicate to the “charter organizers” that there would be a negative financial impact to the rest of the district since that fact does not impact the decision on whether or not to approve the charter. With the state budget the way it is, it would be a epic failure if the district didn’t share with the community that there is about to be a huge financial chunk taken out of the rest of the district to fund the CVHS charter.

    I think that state laws should be changed so that other schools and students are not impacted when one school wants to go charter. If that were the case, the CVHS charter wouldn’t be an issue. I don’t know why my students should have to have reduced funding so that CVHS can go charter.

    Where is the charter plan? How can a community decide to support or oppose a charter that has not been vetted yet? Those of you that are on here and seem to support the charter and who also regularly criticize the district would be going insane if the district shrouded what they do in secrecy. Where’s the outrage?

  9. Charter New Course Says:

    Doctor J,
    Does Anon #8 also sound like Sue Brothers?

  10. Doctor J Says:

    @CharterNewCourse, Agent Hotchner has not confirmed SB as the author of that post. 🙂

  11. Charter New Course Says:

    Doctor J,
    It’s someone new in town, saying “who also regularly criticize the district would be going insane if the district shrouded what they do in secrecy.” The Grand Jury regularly criticizes the district, we are not insane just mad, and the district is shrouded in secrecy. Superintendent Newsletters have been cryptic, few and far between. Did you notice that post was sent the same time as the other one?

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