Sunday, April 17, 2011

What's a Million Dollars?

The current version of the School Finance Act, HB 1345, has an additional million dollars for charter school capital construction. The base of $5 million was all that was left in 2004 when a new administration cut funding previously added by then-Governor Bill Owens, the original Senate sponsor of the state's Charter Schools Act.
After all these years of the funding being whittled away by an increasing number of charter school students who all share in the finite amount, there is a plan to restore a small portion of the pot, which at one time was over $8 million.
Charter schools use this fund, Charter School Capital Construction, to pay for their capital needs. For most of the state's charter schools, it's the only money available for charter schools to use outside of their Per Pupil Revenue (PPR). Unlike school district operated schools, charter schools don't have access to bond funds obtained through ballot questions. If districts choose to include their charter schools in mill or bond questions, a charter school can receive these funds, but it is at the discretion of the local district if the charter school is included.
A million dollars is a small portion of what charter schools need to cover their capital needs in a manner comparable to their non-charter public school counterparts. However, it is certainly a step in the right direction!

Attending the National Charter School Conference

People attending the National Charter School Conference for the first time may feel overwhelmed. There are a couple of strategies that may be helpful, including picking a strand (e.g., governance, facilities, etc.) and just going to workshops in that strand. Another strategy is to pick a variety of workshops, on different topics, to get a little bit of everything.
Almost everyone who attends a conference with a group of people makes sure that they are all in different workshops so they can report back and discuss what they've learned. This is a great strategy because it's one thing to hear about a new or innovative idea, but it's totally different for it to be instituted back at your charter school. Further, it's often the side conversations, with other people in the workshop, where real nuggets are unearthed.
I've always liked when new charter school leaders attend the national conference and then come back appreciating how great we have it in Colorado! We have a wealth of resources available for charter schools and a comprehensive support system in place. Most states don't have that level of support.
The best part of the conference, however, is in getting to catch up with old friends and meet new friends. Attendees are typically very eager to learn and so are eager to engage in conversations. Everyone likes to talk about their charter school and it's fun to hear about the variety of models in use around the country.
I went to the very first National Charter School Conference in 1997 in Washington, DC. There were maybe 150 people there. Now we have more charter schools than that in just the state of Colorado!
Lots of great memories are made during the conference each year! I hope to see you at this week's conference!