Twin Ridges may go to charter status
In a move to keep state funding, trustees are pondering a plan to turn Twin Ridges Elementary School District into a charter district.
The district on the San Juan Ridge hopes to minimize the effects of a possible reduction in state education funds, which could cut $1.5 million for its 14 schools. Most of them are charter schools that receive nearly $6,000 per student – more than $1,500 the state average.
If trustees adopt a plan to charter the district, Twin Ridges would become California’s fifth since adoption of the state’s decade-old law.
Chartering the district would guarantee Twin Ridges’ current funding levels in addition to what the state of California allocates, said Larry Pastore, the district’s assistant superintendent for fiscal services.
“If we don’t make this decision by the end of the year, all of our schools would drop to statewide funding levels,” Pastore said.
Additional students in the charter district would be funded at the statewide level, Pastore said.
“We’d have to be thoughtful on future growth for the district, but by chartering the district, we’d be locking in our funding limits for a long, long time,” he said.
A decision to charter the district will be before the board Feb. 12 and has to be approved by teachers.
Twin Ridges schools operate on several complex funding models.
Yuba River Charter School, Nevada City School of the Arts, Bitney Springs Charter High School and Grizzly Hill School operate under a revenue-limit system, which guarantees at least $4,400 per pupil from the state. Twin Ridges kicks in an additional $1,500 per student.
Washington School, which has less than 40 students, receives more funding per student than the other schools under a special small-school allowance. The remaining schools receive block grants.
“There has been a great deal of uncertainty in our funding for a while,” Pastore said. “This will bring a sense of relief for us.”
The district’s money woes increased when Gov. Gray Davis proposed slashing more than $800 million from his education budget.
Because the district’s enrollment is small, the loss of as few as 10 students can be a major blow. That was evidenced by the fortunes of Oak Tree Community Charter School, which faced a $55,000 shortfall after losing nearly a dozen of its 65 students to a new school and spending too much to open the 2-year-old school.
The school nearly closed in December before benefactors raised almost $60,000. It will be combined with Grizzly Hill next year.
The change to a charter district will have little effect on curriculum or faculty bargaining issues, Superintendent Dave Taylor said.
“This will simply assure the continuity of our unique charter programs,” Taylor said. “People come to our district because of the choices we offer, and we hope to maintain that.”
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