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Palisades asks legislators to move bills out


The Palisades School District wants the current proposals for charter school funding reform to be the ones that finally get out of committee.

At the March 6 public school board meeting, Superintendent Bridget O’Connell announced she had written in detail to state legislators calling for their support of Senate SB34, and a similar version in the House, HB526.

She especially called for support to move the bills out of their committees and onto the floors for full votes. Board members have complained bitterly for many years that bills aiming to reform charter and cyber (online) charter funding, as well as general oversight for their operations, have never gotten out of committee, while public school districts work under comprehensive oversight, and increased pressure to control costs.

With significantly increased costs for cyber charter school tuition cited in recent annual budget discussions as primary drivers for tax increases, the district has called for active support for the two bills.

Taxpayers in the state’s public school districts support the private school tuitions for students living within their borders, with the support calculated by the state through formulas that district officials have long complained are grossly unfair to their taxpayers.

O’Connell said that passage of the two bills would save the district $558,061 this year, which is an amount greater than the district budget deficits that had to be made up in recent years by tax increases.

After three years of no tax increase, the board passed increases the last four years of 0.82 percent, 0.90 percent, 0.94 percent, and 0.88 percent.

Further in the letter, O’Connell detailed particular inequities in the funding calculation method, and added a comparison of Palisades performance of its own cyber charter program with that of three local private cyber charters, which have been identified by the state as “in need of comprehensive support and improvement,” or “additional targeted support and improvement.”

Also at the March 6 meeting, the board entertained input from 11 residents in attendance, including one student, who voiced deep concern about a current effort to change how grade point averages are calculated. The change, which is to go into effect at the beginning of the next school year, was initiated as a means for giving more recognition to student achievement, but it was criticized as exposing college and scholarship applicants to unfair comparisons with their competitors.

The board urged the committee handling the matter to meet with the critics toward incorporating their concerns, and assured them that there was plenty of time for revision before the scheduled implementation.

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