July 29, 2020

State Funding Will Not "Follow the Student" in 2020-2021
A rider (Senate Bill 98) attached to the $202 billion budget Governor Gavin Newsom signed earlier this month included a one-year rule that keeps each student’s funding with the district they attended last year. That freeze is specifically designed to limit students transferring out of district schools to public charter schools (both bricks-and-mortar and virtual) during the coronavirus pandemic, by making it unaffordable for charters to accept them.

In many cases, charter schools’ spring distance-learning went online faster, and was more rigorous and synchronous than district schools, prompting parents to leave district schools in droves. This is not unique to California. In Ohio, Epic Charter Schools has been enrolling 800-1200 students per day. Fairfax County, Virginia, which admits its distance learning roll out was a disaster, has already lost 400 students to charter and private schools.
Public employee unions pushed the language slipped into California’s last-minute budget rider, which passed without committee hearings or public scrutiny. It fails to explain how charter schools are supposed to cope with the financial loss while increasing staff, facilities and supplies for the new students they've already enrolled. The Editorial Board, Sacramento’s Ongoing Hits at Charter Schools, Daily Breeze, July 2, 2020

Time for Charter Schools to Increase Disclosure 
The level of per pupil payments is going down as much as 10 percent in some states. In North Carolina, charter schools are planning on a 10 percent decrease. In California, the state has approved a tentative budget that decreases incoming revenue from FY 2020 by approximately 10 percent in most categories. In Indiana, with a two-year budget cycle, per pupil payments will not change for FY 2021. In Pennsylvania, the FY 2020 Education Budget levels were renewed for FY 2021. That said, Philadelphia charter schools have seen an increase of 7 percent for basic education students and 5.3 percent for special education students, since local contributions make up the lion’s share of per pupil payments.

In its role as Continuing Disclosure Agent for charter school borrowers in six states, School Improvement Partnership is encouraging the schools it reports on to file Voluntary Material Event Notices to disclose to the bond market the effects of COVID-19 on charter school finances, operations and academics. It’s a good practice for all affected charter schools with debt. Read more here.

Calls for Reform in Pennsylvania 
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale last week called upon the state General Assembly to reform Pennsylvania’s charter school law after his review of Lincoln Learning Solutions’ (LLS) 2014 - 2018 tax filings. Mr. DePasquale found LLS had an $81.8 million reserve fund in fiscal 2017-2018, which was much larger than the reserve funds of any other charter management company that was similarly reviewed. LLS manages Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School in Midland and Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. Based on state Department of Education data from 2018, the two schools have a combined enrollment of 11,000 students. It is registered as a nonprofit organization. Pennsylvania’s charter school law prevents both the state’s auditor general and Department of Education from performing full reviews of charter management companies’ books. “Taxpayers deserve to know exactly where their money is going,” Mr. DePasquale said. “The General Assembly should revisit Pennsylvania’s charter school law — which I believe is the worst in the nation — to make sure our limited education funding is not being diverted to benefit private companies.” Nick Trombola, Auditor General Calls for Change to State's Charter School Law After Review of PA Cyber, Lincoln Park, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 22, 2020

District Boots Charter School Students Off Its Buses
Principals and parents from multiple local charter schools yesterday protested the Dayton Public Schools’ (DPS) new busing plans for their schools. Earlier this summer, DPS announced that the charter and private school students it is required to transport would be moved from traditional DPS yellow school buses to special public bus routes for 2020-21. With several charter schools scheduled to open in just two weeks, DPS has not provided those schools or their families with any specifics, including routes, student pick-up times or bus stop locations. DPS had promised the information would be available by July 17th. Parents are demanding a return to the yellow buses charter students have always used. Many believe DPS is trying to throw charter and private school busing into chaos to lure those students back to DPS

Public Hearing Yesterday
The 100 Black Men of Syracuse (OBMS) organization is getting closer to opening the “CNY Steam Academy Charter School” it hopes to sponsor on Syracuse’s South Side. It would become the city’s fifth charter school. In its application to the NY DOE, OBMS says it will enroll 675 students from kindergarten through sixth grade over three years. The school would be managed by Higher Learning Network Inc. in partnership with Onondaga Community College. OBMS is a nonprofit group whose mission is to improve the quality of life in Syracuse through education, mentorship and service. James Mulder, Public Gets Chance to Weigh In on Proposed Charter School,, July 27, 2020


Charter Schools Keep Innovating in Time of Pandemic 
A Tucson charter school has found a unique device, typically used for yard work, to disinfect a school in under ten minutes. At first glance, it may look like a leaf blower, but it's actually a RYBOI Chemical Fogger/Mister that is used to prevent weeds and bugs in a yard or home. This is now Rose Academy's COVID-19 disinfector. Rose adopted the device after learning that this is one way the airlines quickly disinfect their airplanes between flights. The machine’s 15 foot blast of microbial and virus killing disinfect is made up of 97 percent water, but with the disinfecting solution added, Rose claims it is 99.3 percent effective in eliminating viruses. Schools in other states have also purchased “fogger” type machines to battle germs – sometimes with CARES Act funding. Veronika Vernachio, Tucson Charter School Uses 'Fogger' Typical for Yard Work to Disinfect School, KGUN 9 on Your Side, July27, 2020
School Improvement Partnership improves transparency and accountability in the charter school bond market. As continuing disclosure agent for more than 40 schools in six states, we enhance the form and content of secondary market information for charter school bond investors. On behalf of such investors, School Improvement Partnership performs comprehensive evaluations of charter school borrowers in transition - both pre-investment and post-investment. Please view our website or call us at 215.854.6322.
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