Officials and educators with the Brookings-Harbor School district are being very diplomatic and courteous when it comes to hearing the plans for a proposed charter school. But, after several public meeting between both sides, one thing is becoming clear: School district officials remain unconvinced that such a charter school is in their best interest – and they likely won’t change their minds anytime soon.
Of course that doesn’t sit well with representatives of the Riverside Charter Academy, who have spent hundreds of hours developing plans for an alternative school based on the Expeditionary Learning (hands-on) model.
They forget that charter schools, based on any model, are a hard sell – here and anywhere.
To their credit, school district officials and educators seem genuinely supportive of the Expeditionary Learning model. It’s a model that emphasizes learning through long-term investigation of subjects including individual and group projects, field studies, and performances and presentations of student work.
However, based on interviews with both school district officials and representatives of the charter school, the division between both parties can be traced to one thing: money. To be more specific, what kind of value for the dollars lost does the school district get with the charter school?
Charter schools operate independently of public schools under a performance agreement with a chartering authority, which is, typically, a school district. Charter school funding is dictated by the state. In Oregon, charter schools are funded by transferring per-pupil state money from the school district where the charter school student resides. Charters, on average, receive less money per-pupil than the corresponding public schools in their areas.
How much state funding money the Brookings-Harbor School District will lose and Riverside Charter Academy will gain is unclear. Charter officials have yet to provide specific information about this and other key components of their proposal. This leaves school district officials uneasy – and rightly so.
If Riverside representatives want the school district, and the public, to take their proposal seriously, they need to present a convincing argument backed by solid data – enough to convince school officials to part with some of the ever-dwindling funding doled out by the state.