Legislature closes charter loophole, throws CCUSD into panic

So, when voters said no to additional money, Burdick found a way to take it from them anyway

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debbi burdickCCUSD – On March 5, Cave Creek Unified School District (CCUSD) Superintendent Debbie Burdick (r) had Administrative Assistant Julia Scotto send out an urgent alert e-mail with the subject line: “Your help is requested.”

A similar urgent request for help was placed on the district’s home web page to contact District 1, 15 and 23 legislators as well as Gov. Doug Ducey, including contact information for each.

The request stated: “For the 2013-14 school year, Cave Creek Unified School District converted four elementary schools to district-sponsored charter schools. The additional money received for the conversion was used to fill the hole left from the K-3 override and M&O override (approximately $3.4 million) that were not approved by the voters.

“CCUSD has learned that late last night, the state budget shifted to eliminate all district charters totally. This would be a $3.4 million cut for us. CCUSD is urging the community, parents, teachers, staff, constituents and stakeholders to contact your state representatives AND the governor.”

So, when voters said no to additional money, Burdick found a way to take it from them anyway.

While Burdick doesn’t tell people what to say when they contact their representatives or the governor, it’s obvious from her message stopping the loss of money is the issue.

For a little background on this, CCUSD residents voted against the K-3 and Maintenance &Operations budget overrides.

That didn’t appear to sit well with Burdick so she schemed, with the help of Rep. Heather Carter, R-Dist. 15, and most likely others, to find a way to take the same money from district taxpayers without their consent.

A loophole in the charter school statutes allowed for district-sponsored charter schools to receive additional funding simply by declaring themselves charter schools.

So, Burdick shamelessly asked the governing board to vote to convert four elementary schools to charter schools for the sole purpose of receiving additional money. The board voted 4-1 in favor of the conversions with Susan Clancy, who was serving on the board at the time, as the lone dissenting vote.

What changes did the district make in order to receive that additional money?


They employed the same teachers and administrators, used the same curriculum and textbooks, provided transportation using the same buses and so on. Absolutely nothing changed.

All they had to do was declare these schools charter schools and the extra money that voters disapproved of was confiscated from them anyway, showing up on their property tax bills as “Addl Educ Aid – Cave Creek.”

So Burdick’s panic was over SB 1476, which Ducey signed into law last Thursday, phasing out district-sponsored charter schools by fiscal year 2016-2017.

For the upcoming school year, district-sponsored charter schools will receive a 50 percent reduction to that additional funding, which will be phased out completely for fiscal year 2016-2017.

Decisions such as these, that Burdick and the board continue to make, seem to convince taxpayers to continue voting the way they do.

Meanwhile, CCUSD is already discussing the possibility of placing bond and override measures on the next ballot.

And, while Burdick complains about the district getting less money, she’s faring rather well personally with a salary that tops $144,000, $3,000 more than the previous year, despite a continued downward trend in enrollment and school closures.

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