What the charter school needs
Vail CO, Colorado
The Eagle County School Board did make a mistake recently giving the Charter Academy $2.5 million to build a community building.
But it was more a question of timing and not identifying the funding source than whether the school needs the facility.
The board took back that decision Wednesday night and rescheduled a vote on the funding for Tuesday, Nov. 6, Election Day.
Actually, that’s another mistake. There is no objective reason that the board must vote just hours before the election results are tallied. Doing so will only foster the perception that this is a rushed decision and not fully thought through, even if the board has discussed such a community building for the past couple of years.
The school board, with a 4-3 vote a couple of weeks ago, pretty much triggered the little firestorm that led to a packed board room of parents and educators Wednesday night. An unfortunate side effect was scratching an old wound of resentment toward the charter school among parents and educators from the rest of the public schools.
The Charter Academy’s leaders have added to those resentments by rejecting suggestions to raise the money they need for facilities by adding one student per class to their limit of 16 or considering an offer to move into the current Battle Mountain High School building when the new high school begins service.
There’s a whiff of obstinacy that fuels this resentment, deserved or not. Public surveys done before the school district asked voters for $128 million in bonds to build and upgrade the schools showed pretty convincingly that the election measure would fail if the Charter Academy’s projects were part of it.
The resentment is out of proportion. Let’s be clear about that. The 288 students who attend the charter academy are as much a part of the public school district as the rest of those 5,500 or so students.
And of the building needs on a life-and-safety basis, the Charter Academy’s needs are by far the most critical in the district. The school has not received any construction funding from the school district for its entire 14-year existence. They are a fully legitimate candidate for this boost for the building.
Throw out the resentments against the Charter Academy. Throw out the academy’s whining about being picked on. And please, throw out the rhetorical nonsense from each side that their position is the one “for the children” of Eagle County. Everyone involved is for the children; they just have very different ideas about what decision truly is in the best interests of the kids.
The cold-blooded assessment is that extra funds from the bond issue should not be allocated until the district really knows whether there will be money left over from the projects the bond was truly meant to cover.
If the funds will come from somewhere else, well, the district should have that somewhere else clearly identified, along with specific justification for why giving it to the Charter Academy is the best use of that money.
The board cannot possibly have enough information about whether there will be money left over from the bond by election night. District leaders should already know that the community will listen with great interest about where the board does find that much money and why giving it to the Charter Academy is the best use.
For their part, the Charter Academy’s leaders ought to give serious consideration to their priorities, along with suggestions for a minor adjustment to their class size and the possibility of retrofitting Battle Mountain to fill that need for a proper campus. Frankly, that’s not asking too much.
The Charter Academy does need better facilities, and the school board does need to weigh the whole district’s needs very carefully when allocating large sums of precious funding.
We think there’s room for the give and take that will be required to make the best decision about how to better house the Charter Academy. That’s not likely to happen by Nov. 6, however, and not without the Charter Academy taking another long, hard look at all of its options.
” Don Rogers for the Editorial Board