This past week, the Jeffco School Board denied the charter application for Great Work Montessori School. This is a very sad day for the low income children this school wanted to serve. All other areas of Jeffco have charter schools, why deny this area and those families access to quality education choices?
We found it very odd that Superintendent Dan McMinimee said he and the cabinet could not support Great Work Montessori Charter application. How could that be when their answer was not made public until the day of the decision? More importantly, we take issue with his comment, “Evaluating the last 9 charter school openings, only 1 opened with students over their projections”. Mr. McMinemee makes it sounds like Jeffco has been approving charter schools left and right. To be clear, in the last 5 years, there have only been three charter schools opened in Jeffco. The list of 9 charter schools he is referring to go back 20 years! Is it reasonable to be using 20-year-old data? There was a huge chunk of time (over a decade) where no charter school’s applications were approved in Jeffco. To be relevant, Mr. McMinimee should have only looked at the most recent charter school openings – Addenbrooke, Golden View Classical Academy and Doral, which are all meeting student and budget projections.
The Jeffco school board denied Great Work Montessori’s application, stating that they weren’t confident the school could meet their budget projections and how they were funded. Is the school board really going to criticize a school for receiving funds from the Walton Foundation? As a reminder, charter schools DO NOT receive any start-up money from the district and receive ZERO capital to rent and/or purchase a school building. Charter schools do not receive money to turn a building into a school. They work on a shoestring budget, source low cost items and/or donations (unlike the new school in Candelas area that is being built for $32 million, not including the interest costs.)
Years ago, some charter schools did have to turn to the district or other sources for loans to operate, and that was because charter school students were not treated equally when it came to funding. When the former Jeffco board majority decided to treat all children fairly by equalizing funding for ALL public schools, those charter school loan requirements disappeared 100%. Charter schools are PUBLIC schools and they should receive the same funding as district-run schools. But unlike the district-run schools, they only receive the funding once they open and students are enrolled. To be clear, charter schools receive ZERO on-going dollars for capital expenses, the only public “equitable” funds they receive is for operating expenses. As a reminder, Jeffco is projected to receive $15.5 million more in state funding next year.
Board Member Comments
Repeatedly, board members commented on fair funding for students. Students at Great Work Montessori would have received the same funding as all other Jeffco students. What about fair school choice for all students in Jeffco? Current Montessori schools in Jeffco have long wait lists, well into the hundreds. And for many families, it is not feasible to get their children to a Montessori school that is far away.
One of the stated reasons by the school board for denial of the school application was sustainability. Board member Brad Rupert mentioned that a school with only 270 students would not be sustainable. But Mr. Rupert, what about the 24 schools listed below that will be reduced to extremely small schools if the 3A/3B bond passes? Those school counts are at, near or below your defined “sustainable” number or projected to be below that number when 6th graders are moved to middle school. Does that mean the 24 schools listed below will be closed because they do not or will not meet your criteria? If this is your rationale for not approving Great Work Montessori, then how long will it be before you advocate closing the schools below?
ALLENDALE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
|BELMAR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|BERGEN VALLEY INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL|
|BRADFORD INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL|
|CAMPBELL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|COLOROW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|DUTCH CREEK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|FOOTHILLS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|FREMONT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|GLENNON HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|GREEN GABLES ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|KULLERSTRAND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|MARSHDALE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|PARMALEE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|PECK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|PENNINGTON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|PLEASANT VIEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|RED ROCKS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|SLATER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|STOBER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|STOTT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|VIVIAN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|WELCHESTER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
|WILMORE DAVIS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
School Choice Denied
It was a very sad moment when the school board denied a charter school application that would have served our most needy and diverse group of children in Jeffco. All children aspire to become something great when they grow up and so many parents want an environment where their children will thrive, learn and be happy. The opponents of this charter school say this school was not driven by a grassroots effort. Those people are wrong. It was evident to most people in the boardroom that night that the families there with their young children were there because they supported this new Montessori school. Those families have spent years planning for this school, preparing, having thoughtful conversations with community members and gathering community and local business support. Those families were dreaming of a school to serve not only their own children, but the neighborhood children in an area desperate for school choice – only to have it squashed by the “clean slate” school board. There is demand for charter schools in Jeffco, and if the board truly believed in building strong school communities and quality education for all, they would have voted YES instead of denying Great Work Montessori’s application.