December 15, 2012

Brockton school leaders debate pros and cons of charter school’s effect on funding

BROCKTON — December 13, 2012
By Alex Bloom

Local educators disagree with charter school supporters on the impact a proposed charter school in Brockton would have on public school students.

Residents can tell the state Board of Education how they feel about the proposal at a 4 p.m. hearing on Tuesday at the main branch of the Brockton Public Library on Main Street.

The proposal to create the International Charter School of Brockton – backed by former Mayor John T. Yunits – has the school opening in 2014 with 500 students and expanding to 1,200 over a few years. Its location has not been determined.

If the charter school gets approved, state funds for education will be redirected from the Brockton Public Schools to the charter school for the students it educates.

“The financial impact on the district is always overstated by the district,” said Dominic Slowey, spokesman for the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association. “The state provides a healthy amount of reimbursement for money that gets transferred to charter.”

School district officials counter that a charter school would peel off Brockton’s top performing regular education students, leaving the district to foot the bill for expensive special education offerings as well as programs for non-English speaking students.

“If we were to have a lottery and they could only get what we gave them, that’s a whole different ball game,” said Aldo Petronio, the school district’s executive director of financial services.

Slowey pointed out that districts do not get money for students who leave for private schools, students who move to other communities, or for students who leave the country.

Brockton spent $12,540 per pupil in 2010-2011, according to the most recent numbers from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. There were no figures immediately available on how much money would be taken from the Brockton public school budget for students who enroll at the proposed charter school.

But by way of comparison, Springfield’s SABIS International Charter, serving kindergarten through 12th grade, has 1,562 Springfield students this year, and receives $15.9 million of the district’s funds.

Here are some issues being debated about the proposal.

Regular education: If a student moves from a school district to a charter school, funding follows the student.

In the first year of the switch, a public school district receives 100 percent reimbursement per student for the money. The district then receives 25 percent reimbursement per student for the following five years.

“For six years the districts are getting money from the state for students they are no longer educating,” Slowey said.

But, Petronio said the slow departure of students to a charter school would not be enough to close an entire public school, meaning there would be less funding to operate the same number of buildings.

Special education: Slowey said that statewide, charters are starting to educate an increased number of special education students. Slowey estimated that about 12-15 percent of the 29,411 charter school students were special education students. Brockton had about 13 percent of its students as part of special education in 2011-2012.

“We’re not that far off from the district,” Slowey said.

Transportation: Depending on the location of the proposed school, Brockton may need to contract buses to transport charter school students. The district contracts buses at about $50,000 per bus.


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