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home : latest news : local February 5, 2016

5/22/2013 8:31:00 AM
HUSD charters 5 schools to receive extra money
HUSD financial recap
Over the past five years, Humboldt Unified School District has experienced a combined loss of revenue of $10 million.

The amount of maintenance and operation funding from the state per student is less today than it was five years ago.

The state no longer provides the 2 percent adjustment for inflation, nor soft capital funds - a cumulative loss of $3.5 million.

It has reduced unrestricted capital resulting in a cumulative loss of about $1.2 million.

The elimination of full-day kindergarten funds and building renewal funds is about $3.6 million.

Another half million dollar is lost in Teacher Experience Index because of retirements and resignations of teachers with many years of experience.

Humboldt faces a $1.5 million deficit for the 2013-2014 school year. It has lost about 85 students, indicating a decline from the past few years of 100-125 students, but still a $340,000 loss of revenue.

It will need $100,000 to move teachers on the salary schedule who have acquired additional post-graduate education.

The defeat of Proposition 204 resulted in a loss to HUSD of $3.3 to $3.5 million of potential revenue.

On the plus side, the district does receive about $50,000 from rentals the former district office and cell towers.

It saved $174,000 by finding funds other than M&O to pay teachers and staff.

The APS solar panels save the district about $100,000 in utility payments.

Sue Tone

A combination of factors, including Arizona's No. 1 position as the state making the largest cuts to public education - 21.8 percent - led the Humboldt Unified School District governing board to approve the chartering of five schools at a May 15 special meeting.

HUSD Supt. Paul Stanton laid out the dreary financial history that has set the stage for approving charter applications for one middle and four elementary schools: a combined loss of revenue of $10 million over the past five years. (See sidebar for explanation.)

Stanton said the district is reviewing its staffing levels as it looks at student needs. It is operating about as efficiently as possible, as verified by this year's performance audit by the Auditor General's Office.

Converting schools to district-sponsored charter schools will increase HUSD's revenue. So will an M&O override, paid for by local taxpayers. Board members have been investigating both options.

At Tuesday's regular board meeting, members looked at survey results from Paul Ulan of Primary Consultants, which indicate about 55 percent of those surveyed would support a 10 percent override and about 46 percent would support a 15 percent override.

District-sponsored charter schools bring in an additional $1,400 per student by the second year. The first year, only new-to-the-district students receive the $1,400 allocation. New half-day kindergarten students generate $700 each.

"The purpose of chartering our schools is not purely financial," Stanton said. "It will allow us to enhance existing programs and create signature programs."

Chartering schools will not close the gap caused by the $10 million loss, he added. It will, however, allow schools to enhance the programs students have now and create innovative "magnet" or signature programs that would offer parents and students more choices.

Otherwise, hardly anything changes. All schools will continue to follow state standards and testing; all requirements for teacher certification stay the same. District-sponsored charter schools are governed by the same board and follow all policies and procedures of the district. Teachers remain district employees with the same benefits. The district continues to provide transportation.

"The word 'charter' makes the hair stand up on the back of necks," said board president Rich Adler. "We've been thinking this through, doing our due diligence, and taking time to do it the right way."

He said a benefit would be the niche marketing that some local charter schools have, along with a governing board and superintendent to oversee operations.

Board member Brian Letendre said he, too, has not been a big fan of charter schools.

"This is the game we play. The state has put us in this position," he said, adding that chartering district schools would result in the extra revenue coming from the entire state. An override, he said, is local and could hurt more people.

"This is maybe not the first choice. For the times we live in, I think it's the best choice," said board member Suzie Roth.

Finally, board member Gary Hicks said Stanton had successfully turned him around.

"I was very opposed. I have to support this. I think it is the best economically as well as educationally. It will provide real benefits to the kids," Hicks said.

The extra funds will benefit all schools, not just the designated charters, which include Humboldt, Mountain View, Coyote Springs, Lake Valley elementary schools, and Glassford Hill Middle School. The district cannot charter Granville because the Arizona Schools Facilities Board fully funded the building of the school. It cannot charter Bradshaw Mountain High School because a district must offer at least one non-charter option at each grade level and the district has only one high school.

Drawbacks to chartering include the unknown future action of the legislature which could change how it funds charter schools; the Schools Facilities Board won't count students at charter schools when a district needs a new school; charters do not receive soft capital money from the state (which hasn't allocated soft capital for the past four years to any Arizona school district); and if a charter wants to convert back to regular school designation, it must pay back all additional per student funds.

Six other districts in Arizona have created district-sponsored charter schools, and at least five more are considering chartering schools for the 2013-2014 school year.

The board unanimously approved the application to charter the five schools. Teachers and administrators will use 2013-2014 to research potential signature programs and meet with students, parents and interested community members.

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LB - Favour & Wilhelmsen Probate

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