Following a report by Superintendent Christopher Rudisill saying supposedly “free” charter and cyber schools cost the district $4.2 million, Conewago Valley School District (CVSD) approved a resolution calling for changes to charter school funding.
“While you may hear that these schools claim they are free; they really are not free at all,” said Rudisill.
Rudisill said when the board releases its budget to the public in April, he wants the community to understand the challenges the district is facing. Rudisill said the district pays $10,960 for every regular education student that decides to attend a charter school or cyber charter school. “If that child is (in) special education, the cost to the district is $26,510. The money is taken from our school district to help fund the free cyber charter schools,” Rudisill said.
Rudisill said that money shortage shows up in larger class sizes and fewer new equipment and material purchases within the district.
“Currently, our state under-funds our district at a cost of $3,490 per student, That’s $12.6 million in opportunities for our students that are lost because of the state,” Rudisill said.
Rudisill said CVSD was “fortunate to have received a federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund grant. We received $2 million to help one-time spending for the district, whether it be getting more livestream equipment, looking to make sure that we’re prepared for graduation this year and many years forward; whatever the case might be.”
While Rudisill celebrated the addition of the $2 million, he wondered how much more the district could have received had larger amounts of funding not gone to charter schools.
“What’s disheartening in all of this is, while we received $2 million as a school district, two cyber charter schools received a total of $22 million,” he said. “One school received $9 million; another school received $13 million. That’s 13 more million more opportunities that we could have been used for our school or any other school in the state of Pennsylvania that was, again, given to a free cyber charter school instead of us.”
Rudisill recommended, and the board approved, a Pennsylvania State School Boards Resolution on Charter School Funding Reform, which he said calls for the General Assembly to “revise the existing flawed charter school funding system” to make sure the district isn’t overpaying and can “provide for our own students.”
Spring Standardized Testing Moves Ahead
Although Conewago Valley Intermediate School principal Kenneth Armacost said doing so would be difficult, school leaders told the board that they are working to prepare for standardized spring testing and that so far no pandemic-related waivers had been announced.
“Every passing day, it’s becoming more and more clear that spring testing will go on,” Assistant Superintendent Sharon Perry said.
Matthew Muller, principal of New Oxford Middle School, said that staff hold bi-weekly meetings to ensure they are ready for the tests.
“To say there are some significant challenges with distributing, with testing 800 kids on a hybrid schedule and allowing for test security, social distancing, mask wearing and everything else is the understatement of the year, to be honest with you. But we’re going to work through that and provide the best opportunities for our kids,” said Armacost.
Praise from the Assistant Superintendent
“It’s really hitting me being at that midpoint of the year the adaptability that’s being shown by our students, by our teachers, by our administrators, by us, you as board members,” said Perry. “Adaptability is such a key area for us, and what’s really coming out of the reflections of COVID, what it’s taught us, is how we can re-invent. How we can be doing things differently.”
Perry said New Oxford High School principal Christopher Bowman had mentioned that virtual visits with parents had gone well and the school is considering offering them going forward for parents unable to attend in person due to work or childcare conflicts. Perry praised the innovation she sees emerging from the pandemic.
“That’s powerful work that we’re all doing together,” Perry said. “So I just wanted to acknowledge that in my conversations with teachers and administrations, I hear more and more of that, of what we can steal from this otherwise horrible time that we’re all working through.”
Perry said that she is also pleased with progress on the Technical English course the district plans to offer next school year.
“I cannot overemphasize how unique this is to offer a course of this stature to high school students,” she said, adding that it is more common to find the course in two- and four-year programs.
Perry praised the new teachers who started this school year.
“You met them at beginning of year,” Perry said. “We’re now at the midpoint of the year. I couldn’t be more thrilled with their overall growth and development and the support that they’re receiving from their mentors, from their principals and from each other. We’ve really developed a community of learners. We work and share together and commiserate together. They’re finding strength in being with one another.”
The next regular board meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, March 8. It can be viewed on YouTube.
Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.
You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.