Monday, March 2, 2009

Depends on how you define "flush"

So I figured the Daily Hampshire Gazette, after publishing an AP story on the Front Page “Charter Schools Cushion: As critics howl, surpluses are defended”, would have showed some due diligence and requested the financials for our local Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, the one my daughter attends.

The one that created a Hell of a stir two years ago fighting for its very creation/existence in an Israeli sort of way (powerfully opposed by Amherst school officials, individuals now gone or in the process of going.)

PVCIC is after all a public school, and although autonomous from our local school committees still subject to Open Meeting Law and Public Documents Law.

I just wish the AP had done a better job of “fair and balanced” research/reporting. For instance, they headline how Charter Schools ended the Fiscal Year (2006) “flush with cash,” but did not bother to ask Regional Public Schools about their E+D accounts (Excess and Deficiency).

For instance, the venerable Amherst Regional High School has almost $1 million stashed away for emergencies ($927,546 to be exact) in the current Fiscal Year--one everybody considers a crisis.

And 10 years ago the state reimbursed the town 80% of the $22 million Override to renovate the High School. Charter Schools, on the other hand, cannot get state funding for buildings from the Massachusetts State Building Authority.

As of June 30, 2008 the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School had an “excess” of $104,881, WELL below the statewide$365,000 (2006) average surplus for charter schools cited in the AP story.

PVCIC generated total revenues of $841,603 against total expenses of $736,822, so unlike most businesses in The Happy Valley this past year –mine included—they showed a “profit.”

But the interesting math to do is simple division: total costs divided by number of students. PVCIC served seventy-seven children or an average cost per student of $9,569; below the state average and well below Amherst’s $14,000 average.

But even more interesting is that state tax education money (Chapter 70) from sending districts--the ones who whine that Charter School robbed them of that money-- came to $488,611 (58% total) and the other $352, 367 (42%) came from Grants (mostly Federal) and Contributions.

These figures do not include the recent $1.5 million Federal Grant paying out over five years for curriculum development because the Feds consider Chinese a “critical language.”

So…as far as Amherst taxpayers are concerned, the average cost to educate was only $6,345 (or less than half the cost of the venerable Amherst Schools)

Pretty good bang for the buck.


Anonymous said...

Hopefully they'll learn more there than at the PVPA charter school which is a complete joke.

Ed said...

This just in from Pioneer:

Circulation: Approx. 80,000

Monday, March 2, 2009
Reneging on reform

Patrick risks education progress

By itself, the state’s recent decision to delay the high-stakes MCAS history test for two years would not be cause for alarm.

However, the two-year postponement voted by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is just the latest indication that the Patrick administration is backpedaling on the high standards and accountability — backed with $40 billion in new funding — embodied in the Education Reform Act of 1993.

The erosion of commitment to preserve and strengthen what has become a national model for education reform is spelled out in gruesome detail in an article, “Accountability Overboard,” by Charles D. Chieppo and James T. Gass of the Pioneer Institute (

As the authors note, the first signs of trouble came in the administration’s “Readiness Project.” While offering some worthy ideas, it seemed ominously to reflect, in some particulars, the education establishment’s resistance to objective assessment, school choice, public charter schools and elements of the 1993 reform.

In addition, the Patrick administration replaced the independent Office of Educational Quality and Accountability with a board with heavy representation for groups it is to audit: teachers unions, school administrators, school committees and the like. It restructured the state Board of Education, in a manner Messrs. Chieppo and Gass aptly compared to FDR’s stacking of the Supreme Court.

Mr. Patrick himself blithely dismissed as “a red herring” efforts to raise the cap on the number of public charter schools. Despite a Boston Foundation study confirming the benefits of charter schools, new charter school proposals have encountered formidable obstacles, when not rejected altogether.

As to the delay in the history requirement, Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester’s explanation that implementation would cost too much was almost laughable. Are we really expected to believe $2.5 million cannot be found somewhere in the executive budget to support what Mr. Patrick has called his “singular pursuit”? The contributions of the state teachers’ unions to Mr. Patrick’s 2006 campaign totaled $3 million.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, visionary Massachusetts educators and political leaders began a reform movement that has made the state’s public school students the highest achievers in the nation. For the administration to turn its back on that extraordinary achievement would be an unconscionable betrayal.

Ed said...

It also is interesting to note that Chester voted to RAISE the UMass student fees, while two Republican members of the board voted AGAINST it.

I know this is UMass, but it is educational policy that also applies to K12

Anonymous said...

Why is Chinese a "critical language" in the United States?

Anonymous said...

"The one that created a Hell of a stir two years ago fighting for its very creation/existence in an Israeli sort of way"

Comparing a Chinese Charter School with the Israeli's fight? How dramatic! (How absurd!) What else is new?


Anonymous said...

What percentage of your students require special education services? i.e. how many are on IEP's?

What percentage of your students qualify for the federal free lunch program?


Anonymous said...

Very good point Ellie. Much of typical public school budgets go to SPED. In fact, the Charter School's budget should be downsized to reflect its lower level of SPED.


Anonymous said...

Charter schools have done a great job spreading the propaganda that they produce better students than public schools at a lower cost. This is not borne out by actual data. This does not stop advocates from stating it anyway. On average, charter school students test slightly lower than traditional public school students.

LarryK4 said...

Anon 3:17: Because of massive quantities of cheap products they sell to us. And their military is nothing but massive.

Anon 3:50 Fred: And like the Israeli's we came into being (And somehow you do not strike me as an Israeli, so take a hike).

Ellie and Fred: They are a public school, feel free to request information as I'm sure they have it (and got my request to me a lot quicker than the Amherst School's got me the figure for how much money they have stashed in their savings account)

Anon 5:12 PM The DOE did a major study and found Charter schools outperformed their sending districts more often than not. And these folks strike me as being real numbers wonks.

Ed said...

Larry, it is the DESE, not DOE, thank Deval Patrick for this and more....

Although, I would look more at the research that the Pioneer Institute has done, particularly now that they have hired all the old DOE folks that somehow aren't working for DESE anymore....

As I understand it, charter schools are required to take all comers, including SPED students. Now as to how they deal with them, particularly since charter schools can have parental involvement rules, that may differ greatly.

Anonymous said...

What are the wages for teachers at charter schools compared to public schools? Do they pay everyone an equal wage?

LarryK4 said...

Yes, I believe they do (they just use less of them)

Ed said...

Three things:

I believe that charter schools pay teachers less per hour - their teachers work more hours as a rule (their students attend school longer) and I believe they pay less.

Chinese is a "critical language" because of all the IT attacks that are coming from China. The FBI, CIA, NSA, DIA and such need people who know the language in order to read the hacker blogs and websites == which are in Chinese....

Not all charter schools continue, the state has shut down a few for poor performance. Remember that the charter has to be renewed every 5 years or so...

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes. Especially seeing Google translate doesn't understand the slang.

Anonymous said...

It is culture more than just language. Remember the old WW-II movies where one GI asked the other which player did what for which ball team last year? There are things that you need to know to understand what people are really saying when they are cryptic and that is why the govt is willing to subsidize the study of Arabic, Manderin and (back in cold war days) Russian.