Monday, December 10, 2007

Public School Funding, SLPS-style

“The Missouri department of education is investigating whether millions of dollars are owed to area charter schools — and whether that money ended up, instead, in the coffers of the St. Louis Public Schools.

Charter leaders estimate they were shorted more than $7 million last year, or roughly 15 percent of their state funding.

Schools are paid for each student enrolled, according to a formula.

Until this year, charter schools — free, public schools run by independent boards outside of district control — got their state money through the St. Louis Public Schools. Now the state pays them directly.

St. Louis school leaders said they paid what was owed and kept the rest.

Some charter administrators said last year was tough.

"Having only 250 kids, every dollar is important, every nickel," said Marshall Cohen, director of Lift for Life Academy, a charter school in the Soulard neighborhood. His school stands to gain roughly $325,000.

"I believe we didn't get all of our money."

But Thursday, at a special administrative board meeting, St. Louis Public Schools CFO Enos Moss told the board that charter schools were using a faulty formula — in fact, he thinks they're getting more than they should.

"These are not dollars that we believe should be paid to the charters," he said.

It is unclear if all 15 current charter school campuses believe they were underpaid. Gerri Ogle, associate commissioner of finance for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the state received at least one complaint from an area charter school.

Her staff will now look at the dollars sent to all the schools. She doesn't know how long that will take, nor how much money is involved.

But, she said, if the St. Louis district indeed underpaid the charters, the district would have to reimburse them.”

Public School Funding, SLPS-style

"These are not dollars that we believe should be paid to the charters," he said.

Interesting statement. I can’t speculate on whether SLPS intentionally kept Charter-school money. What this does bring to light is a complete lack of organization. Charter schools ARE public schools, and any money that was kept at SLPS that was intended for a Charter kept those schools from doing their job.

Enos Moss acts as if Charters in the area are scalping too much from the state coffers, when in fact they provide the same service that public schools do: they educate children for free, and for every child that goes to a Charter, the public system is relieved from the associated cost. The amount of money coming from the state is PER CHILD, not per school, not per type of school.

What’s more, we’re talking about the education of children. If, through neglect, mismanagement or spite, more money went to some children and less to others, SLPS failed in its primary mission, which is to “improve the achievement of students in every classroom and in every school.” [from website].

Jeanne Allen, President of the Center for Education Reform [on] says,

"The districts and the folks who are threatened by their failure want us all to believe that money somehow is leaving the system, but the system is not where the money is supposed to go. The money is supposed to go to schools to educate students. So the reason that money is moving to different public schools is because parents are choosing to send their kids there. The reason they are sending their kids there is because they are unhappy with the quality of the [St. Louis Public Schools]."

Also ironic that SLPS is a huge funder of the school funding Adequacy Trial saying that the state isn’t giving them enough money when they aren’t passing along the money that belongs to other schools.

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