In their attempt to save a buck, the state is considering shifting the cost burden of charter schools from the state to cities and towns...and this is REAL BAD news for Danbury.
The Hartford Courant reports:
The State Board of Education is considering four proposals that would overhaul the law governing charter schools, including one that would shift the cost of tuition to local school systems.
The most controversial proposal essentially would require towns to pay tuition for students attending the state's 18 charter schools. Now, the state pays $9,300 for each child attending a charter school. Under the new plan, cities and towns would pay for each local student who goes to a charter school.
The theory is that the towns would use money from state education cost-sharing grants to help pay for charter school tuition. Rather than pay for the child to attend a local school, the money would "follow the child" to the charter school.
Advocates say that plan would put charter schools on equal financial footing with traditional schools because charters are now given less money, on average, per student.
Critics, however, say the change would drain money from local school districts, which must still pay for buildings, salaries and other fixed costs.
Michael Sharpe, president of the Connecticut Charter School Network, said he was pleased the state board was tackling the issue and trying to devise an equitable way to pay for charter schools.
But Janet Finneran, vice chairwoman of the state board, said such a formula would be so costly in her hometown of Bethany that it would be detrimental to the rest of the school system. If, for example, 10 Bethany students attended a charter school, the town would have to pay about $100,000 under the new formula. That is about 1 percent of Bethany's entire school budget, she said.
"That would mean the rest of the schools would suffer for it," she said. "We would have to cut staff and increase class sizes. I just think that's unacceptable."
Mark Waxenberg, director of government relations for the Connecticut Education Association, the state teachers union, called the cost-shifting proposals unrealistic and irresponsible.
Waxenberg said shifting the fiscal responsibility for charter schools to the towns would create financial hardships for local districts. The 22 towns that send more than 10 students to charter schools would pay anywhere from $66,242 in Montville to as much as $3.7 million in New Haven, he said.
"We cannot expect to place the lion's share of responsibility for charters on the shoulders of local taxpayers," Waxenberg said.
As the city starts to draft the 2010 budget, this latest proposal from the State Board of Education could have a detrimental impact on the city's budget, which could lead to tax increases or a decrease in services.