Holiday Charter School Laundry
I agree that funding is a problem, but I also agree with PaulK that "this should be part of a larger debate about how to best finance public education in general". It's not as if public school funding was great until charter schools came along and ruined it all -- public school funding started having serious problems when a) the state suddenly realized that the boom times of the '90's weren't going to go on forever and started cutting back on Chapter 70 and other funding, and b) local school districts reacted by browbeating local taxpayers into trying to make up the difference, instead of facing up to the new fiscal reality and figuring out how to make adjustments. IMHO. Charter schools and their funding formula have added a new element to the mix, but they haven't fundamentally changed anything.
Because, let's face it -- why do charter schools take money from local districts? The answer is because they take students from local districts, and the money follows the students. Now, the way that happens may well be unfair -- I'm not going to try to defend the current formula -- but I think the underlying principle is basically sound: schools with more students should get more money; schools with fewer students should get less money. Obviously, there are complexities -- if you remove 20 students from a 1000-student district, you lose $100,000 which it may be difficult for that district to absorb. But it seems to me that arguing (as some people seem to be doing) that a district should lose NO money no matter how many students it loses is ridiculous.
If a district goes from 10,000 students to 1,000, it's gotta lose some money, right? And it should have started losing that money long before it got to 1,000. So the question is not "should it lose money?"; the question is when, and how, and what are the factors that determine how much it loses. I think reasonable people can disagree about what the answers to those questions are, but that's the discussion that has to happen.
And I think there are "deaf ears" on both sides. People whose knee-jerk reaction is, "charter schools are bad because they take money from the public school districts" seem no more willing to discuss the money issue seriously than people who say "charter schools are good, and where their money comes from doesn't matter". (And, quite honestly, I really don't know anyone who says the latter -- instead, I see people who choose to ignore the "you're taking our tax money for your charter school, you jerk!" crowd because they don't see the possibility of a serous discussion. Perhaps that will change -- I hope so.)
I'm a fan of charter schools generally, on the theory that choice is good, but I'm an agnostic on this Discovery School. Your questions -- "What is being sold here? What are the benefits other than change ...?" -- are good ones, and I would like to see a discussion of them. But I think the "you're taking money from our schools" charge is a red herring. Not everyone wants to go to GMRSD, and that's not a bad thing -- it's not a knock on GMRSD, it's just a recognition that people are different. The only reason GMRSD "loses" from a charter school student is that that student was counted for GMRSD and the state gave money to GMRSD for them, and then they went somewhere else the money followed them and was therefore deducted from GMRSD. Net result: GMRSD did not get money for a student who wasn't there. If that student had gone to a private school, or was home-schooled, or dropped out, the net result would have been the same -- the only difference would have been that GMRSD would never have seen the money in the first place, so there would have been no need to deduct it, so there would have been no "loss".
At least, that's the way I see it. If I'm off base on all this, I hope someone will set me straight.