The State of Minnesota, which led the nation in the development of charter schools, is placing a special burden on those schools by enacting yet another “shift” in aid payments.
Thisweek Newspapers describes the situation facing two Dakota County charter schools, Paideia Academy of Apple Valley and Alliance Academy of Burnsville. Alliance has had to borrow $135,000 against a line of credit due to the delayed payments. Paideia, due to its larger size and perhaps better management, has not (yet?) had to tap into a credit line.
While the delay in payments affects traditional as well as charter public schools, it’s charter schools that are hit the hardest. From the article: “charter schools borrow at a far higher cost than Minnesota’s public school districts, which have taxing authority and a state guarantee on their loans. Public school districts typically pay interest of 1 percent or less, while charters pay anywhere from 6 to 23 percent in interest and expenses, according to the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools.”
As for public schools generally, the state gave with one hand and took away with the other–both increasing the per-pupil aid for the next school year and delaying that aid.
For too long, the legislator and governor have treated public school aid as untouchable. But in a down economy, perhaps it’s time to spread the idea of “sacrifice” a little wider. Actually, schools are sacrificing in that they’re dealing with another shift. Perhaps a better approach is to freeze (or cut) per-pupil spending rather than increase it–and then send schools the money when they’re been accustomed to getting it.
A more structural–and controversial–approach would be to implement changes to the collective bargaining law, much as what Wisconsin has done. Some districts in that state have been able to balance their books–and not lay off teachers–due to reforms made possible by the new law.