Howard Street Charter gets a cut to district funding

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Howard Street Charter gets a cut to district funding

5:46 p.m. PT April 19, 2017

Howard Street Charter School is getting a funding cut from the Salem-Keizer School District.

School board members agreed to cut about $185,000 from its funding for the charter school — about 15 percent.

Nancy MacMorris-Adix, the chairperson of the school board, said the funding level was an equity issue. MacMorris-Adix and other board members expressed their support for the charter and said the decrease in funding was not a reflection of the work the school is doing.

“As someone who has sat on the board and made really hard decisions about cuts in quite a number of years … it’s difficult to look at this disparity and not address it,” she said. “I also strongly support the school, strongly support the work there, and (voted) in favor of the motion.”

At the board meeting, 11 people testified against the funding change.

The new district framework for the charter’s “contracted services” costs — the materials and services the school is responsible for — will cost the charter about $60,000 less per year moving forward. So while the district may not be funding as much, the charter won’t need to pay as much either.

Charters operate on five-year contracts. When the contract comes to an end, the district and charter go through the negotiation process to determine funding levels for the next five years.

Over the last six years, the other three charters in the district — Valley Inquiry, Optimum Learning Environments, and JGEMS — went through the renewal process as well. Each school was brought to the same lower funding level.

Michael Wolfe, chief operations officer for the district, said bringing all the charters to the same funding level helps align the charters. Before 2011, Howard Street had been funded at a  higher rate than the other charts, but that was reduced the first time in the last renewal.

This change is also happening, in part, because the district is facing large budget cuts from the state in the next biennium, Wolfe said. He said this was an area the district could save money.

The money saved will go into the district’s general fund, which can be used for I.T. support, hires, and more, across the district.

Christina Tracy, the principal of Howard Street and one of the school’s founders, said, “This is a big change for us.”

Tracy said the charter will have to “be creative” in how it raises money without the additional district funding; they might have to tighten up programs and not get any new technology for a while.

The school has two fundraisers a year to raise money for certain programs. On May 5, they will have their annual dinner that raises money for school field trips. Because of the cut, Tracy said, they will likely add a new fundraiser in the fall.

Getting grants in Salem is hard, she said, because there is a lot of competition.

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Howard Street, which teaches about 160 students in grades 6-8, is the oldest of the district’s four charter schools. It was started by parents in 1997 as an alternative program when Leslie Junior High transitioned to Leslie Middle School.

When the state created charter laws in the late 1990s, Howard Street was grandfathered in, Tracy said. The other charter schools, each addressing something different than the other, were created in the early 2000s.

Howard Street Charter is unique in its curriculum, Tracy said. Students are required to take art, drama, Spanish, and STEM classes all three years. Additionally, each student has a mentor and takes part in the school’s humanities program.

Tracy said these elements help prepare the students for whichever school and path they take in the future. Students who attend Howard Street for at least a year graduate at a rate of 93 percent, compared to the district rate of 71.7 percent.

Students can attend the charter school no matter where they live since the entrance is based on a lottery system.

Tracy said the school came about and has been as successful as it has been due to support from parents and the community. She said the school will rely on them moving forward, too.

For more information, contact the Salem-Keizer School Board at 503-399-3001 or Howard Street Charter at 503-399-3408.

Contact Natalie Pate at npate@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6745, or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist

Howard Street Charter:

  • Enrollment: 160 students
  • Grades served: 6-8
  • Year opened: 1997-1998
  • District facility: Yes
  • Funding level: 100 percent since 2011; 85 percent as of April 2017
  • Average Daily Membership Weighted (ADMw): 163.46

Valley Inquiry:

  • Enrollment: (max) 168 students
  • Grades served: K-5
  • Year opened: 2005-2006
  • District facility: Yes
  • Funding level: 85 percent since 2016
  • ADMw: 176.49

Optimum Learning Environments:

  • Enrollment: 125 students
  • Grades served: 1-5
  • Year opened: 2002-2003
  • District facility: Yes
  • Funding level: 85 percent since 2011
  • ADMw: 136.32

JGEMS Middle School:

  • Enrollment: 99 students
  • Grades served: 6-8
  • Year opened: 2004-2005
  • District facility: No
  • Funding level: 85 percent since 2015
  • ADMw: 103.3
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