Some have privately expressed concern about the way Mr Kloss’ statements, regarding charter schools, as they have been reported across several blogs and news sites, and wanted the full context. Below is the written statement Mr Kloss read, and provided to the school district to place into the school board meeting minutes.
As I witness the Board struggle with conversation on budget deficits, I find it difficult that the taxpayers still continue to view our charter school system as a “sacred cow”.
While Octorara School District is placed under a microscope for items that are purely perception after the fact which have no bearing whatsoever on the current budget crisis (i.e. our new school buildings), there is little or no discussion on the strain and lack of transparency of our charter school system.
I would like to set the record straight regarding the poor analysis of the Octorara budget, and explain just how charter schools are placing strain on our tax dollars. As I read this please remember that over one million of our tax dollars are going to Avon Grove Charter School with additional dollars going to other schools.
First: Charter Schools have the ability to hand choose their students in a selection process that we as taxpayers have little transparency to. This allows these entities to easily control overhead and skew test scores by completely excluding or limiting their amount of students with learning disabilities and IEPs.
Second: All students are not created equal. Octorara School District is responsible to serve the needs of every student, no matter what their disability may be. Octorara School District is solely financially responsible to serve the needs of students with severe Autism and Down Syndrome.
These students are not sent to charter schools. Many of these students are sent to specialized institutions such as the Timothy School. Although these institutions are outright phenomenal in their specialization, their cost can well exceed $100,000 per student. Additionally, Octorara is also financially responsible for those students with IEPs who need full support during the school day, such as wrap arounds or PCAs which can exceed $20,000 per student. Let me reiterate, these special needs students do not go to charter school and cannot be served properly by charter schools.
The cost of these students is far from the simple averages that recent critics calculated Octorara spends per student.
Third: Charter Schools do not share their hiring requirements for teachers. While every teacher in the Octorara District has gone through at least four years of college and aggressive praxis testing, charter schools are free to hire who they wish off the street. Many charter school advocates know, but prefer not to admit, that they are a revolving door for teachers. Their low pay only attracts new college graduates with no connection or passion for the institution itself, and instead use their position as a stepping stone for job experience.
Fourth: Cyber charter schools are a growing strain to future Octorara budgets. These organizations collect the same amount of funding per student as a brick and mortar charter school. These forprofit out of state organizations have the ultimate business plan. Purchase a curriculum upfront, pay a few part time employees as teachers who may or may not have a background in education, fire up a website, and reap the profits. Essentially taxpayer dollars are used to run a website with little to no overhead, no oversight, and no ties to the state or municipalities.
And finally, I would like to address the largest point of criticism for comparison of the Octorara School District vs. charter schools – test scores. I believe the Board and Dr. Newcome owe further explanation on the biased approach that charter schools have vs. public institutions. And the fact that charter schools’ ability to constrain a small population into a subgroup makes pass or fail easy to achieve.
I will end in saying that we need to strengthen the local school board and taxpayer ability to approve and have authority over charter schools. They are using our tax dollars. I ask that we demand that charter schools begin to have a presence at every one of these meetings and open their books and general ledgers as Octorara has.
The school board minutes included a summary of Dr Newcome’s response:
Dr. Newcome reiterated what he has said before, that in these times of economic challenge it doesn’t make sense to duplicate what we already offer at a cost of $2,000,000 to taxpayers. He said Public Charter Schools are legal entities and their transparency, or the lack thereof, is aligned with what they are legally allowed to do. He said in recent years more home schooled families that previously cost the District nothing are now going to Public Charter and Public Cyber schools at a cost to the District. He said he has addressed the funding issue with the legislators in Harrisburg and some of them don’t care.