BY LINDA BENTLEY | JUNE 13, 2012
CCUSD93 goes CHINO
There are thousands of public schools in Arizona and only eight are district-sponsored charter schools
CCUSD93 – Like the acronym RINO, which means Republican in Name Only, there’s one for charter schools too, CHINO, the acronym for Charter in Name Only.
During the June 12 governing board meeting, Cave Creek Unified School District voted 3-1, with member Casey Perkins absent and member Susan Clancy (l) dissenting, in favor of converting four of its five elementary schools, which is as many schools in the district as the law will allow, to district-sponsored charter schools.
Because the law requires the district to retain a public school option for each grade level, it is leaving Black Mountain Elementary, Sonoran Trails Middle School and Cactus Shadows High School as its public school options.
And, because CCUSD93 plans to retain the same teachers, administration, curriculum, transportation, food services, etc. and will be under the supervision of the same governing board, the new district-sponsored charter schools can safely be considered CHINOs.
What’s in it for the district to convert to charters?
Money, or so the district administration believes.
CCUSD93 administration never did present to the board details of the net financial impact to the district, either at the work study meeting when it was first introduced as a concept or during the June 12 meeting when the board was forced to make a decision.
Superintendent Debbi Burdick and Associate Superintendent of Finance Kent Frison explained the district would receive $1,500 in additional funding per student, which they learned has since been raised to $1,600.
However, as charters, the schools are not eligible to receive certain funding and will have to provide those services out of the $1,600 extra per student.
The district never told the board how much it costs to provide things such as busing, soft capital items, food services and other expenses that will no longer be provided for with state funding compared to the additional money it will receive per student.
Additionally, if parents do not wish to send their child to one of the newly minted CHINOs, the district will add that student to Black Mountain’s attendance zone and the student will be transported there with district transportation.
According to Burdick, the conversion to CHINOs will make up for the $3.5 million the district is losing by failing to pass the recent 15 percent override.
Burdick also stated the district ordinarily receives approximately $1.3 million in unrestricted capital and approximately $1.3 million in soft capital.
And, because the district received zero dollars in soft capital this year, she said it wasn’t a disadvantage for charter schools to not receive soft capital in the future.
Charters are also not eligible for Arizona School Facilities Board building renewal funds and they cannot hold override elections.
It’s not clear if the charter schools will have to pay rent to the district for the use of its buildings and, if so, how much the district would be required to charge them.
If the district decides later the charter thing is not working out financially, it can convert back to public schools but, in order to do so, it must return all the additional money it received throughout the term of the charter, which could be over a period of 15 years.
Statute requires charter renewal applications to include a detailed business plan, something the district failed to present to the board when it asked it to approve the conversion to CHINOs.
If converting a majority of a district’s schools to district-sponsored charter schools is really a great idea as well as a great financial benefit, why wouldn’t every district in the state do the same thing?
Currently, only five of Arizona’s 227 school districts operate district sponsored charter schools, including Vail with four and Payson, Fort Thomas, Casa Grande Union and Benson with one each.
There are thousands of public schools in Arizona and only eight are district-sponsored charter schools.
There’s the old adage, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.