I would like to correct a statistic that was published in the most informative series “Forgotten South Carolina” as well as respond to a recent letter regarding charter schools.
It was reported, as part of a larger point dealing with school funding, that the South Carolina Public Charter School District (SCPCSD), a statewide school district created to facilitate the authorizing and monitoring of charter schools in South Carolina, receives $7,894 per student in state money, making it the second highest funded district in the state with respect to state funds. Oh that it were so! Actually, our district receives approximately $6,000 per student in state funding, making us the lowest funded district in the state. We are also among the lowest 2 percent of all school districts in the country in per pupil funding.
I should point out that this error was not the fault of the reporter. The incorrect number appeared as a mistake in our audit. While that was corrected, the incorrect number was what the Department of Education used in discussions with the reporter.
Also, a letter from Dr. Paul Thomas, a well-known detractor of charter schools, made misleading claims about charters — at least as relates to the SCPCSD. He mentions that outcomes are pretty much the same as traditional schools.
Yes, but we do so for a fraction of the money as we get zero local funding. The SCPCSD is only five years in existence, so our schools are still ramping up, and our results will continue to rise. Certainly we have some under performing schools. We have revoked the charter of one such school and have several others on probation. Name me another public school district that is being that proactive in demanding results for hard- earned taxpayer funds.
The letter states that there are significant differences in the makeup of charter students vs. traditional public schools. The fact is that the demographics of the SCPCSD come very close to mirroring the population of the state with regard to income, ethnicity and special needs.
We, by law, have to take any child who wants to attend as long as there is room, and we use a lottery when there are more students than spots available. Every child in our schools is there by choice; if we were not doing something right our schools would simply dry up and go away.
Lastly Dr. Thomas mentions that teacher attrition is higher in charters. He is absolutely right. If the purpose of schools is guaranteed employment for all teachers, we are an abject failure.
Everyone who works for our schools is an at-will employee just like almost every taxpayer in the state. We have no tenure. Our focus is on children and the quality of their experience — not protecting failing schools and teachers.
We have great teachers, many of whom teach in our schools at lower salaries than they could get elsewhere. That is because they know we are serious about innovation, classroom discipline, quality teaching and creating schools that work.
We are by no means where we want to be, but the public can rest assured that the board and staff at the SCPCSD are determined to deliver a quality educational experience while at the same time being good stewards of the taxpayer’s money.
Board of Trustees
S.C. Public Charter School District