DOE concerned about budget in relation to charter schools - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

DOE concerned about budget in relation to charter schools

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A three percent decline in the number of students attending public schools since 2014 has DOE reviewing the impact on the need for teachers and employees, as well as the impact on the department's budget in relation to charter schools.

"Alarming" - that's how superintendent Jon Fernandez described the more than $8 million going to fund 1,200 charter students at the same time the department has lost only 949. Charter schools currently receive roughly $6,500 in government funds per student enrolled. However, in a press release from DOE on Wednesday Fernandez argued that amount might be higher than the legislature intended, saying "This means that funding is being taken from GDOE at a rate of $8,493 per student to support the charter schools. It looks like we are subsidizing the charter school's students coming from private school or off-island or new pre-kindergarten students."

Charter council chair Amanda Blas told KUAM News, "I completely understand where DOE is coming from, it's DOE's duty and responsibility to protect its budget, as many of us know, about 6,500 goes to the charter schools per student enrollment, so I understand where its coming from, so this isn't a fight between DOE and the charter schools, or the charter council and DOE, but I think it is a reflection of the need to update the charter school law."

Recently senator Joe San Agustin introduced legislation that would alter the charter law to provide the council with greater resources and in turn strengthen accountability. Bill 191 would also allow charter schools to submit budgets directly to the legislature, although the budgets for charter schools and DOE would remain lumped together.

We should note DOE has also submitted a separate concern regarding the financial stability of one charter school in particular. Blas added, "I can confirm that we received the report today, I don't have any comment on it just yet, I would have to share it with the other council members first 206 financial stability of any charter school is a concern for the charter council because obviously we'd like to see them financially successful, as well."

She noted charter schools are required to submit financial reports to the council within 30 days of the end of the fiscal year. Both the Guam Federation of Teachers and senator Joe San Agustin have expressed concern over charter school financial accountability considering the schools utilize public funds.

"Number three, we need to take a look at about their practice, their expenditure and practices such as when they deal with procurement, are they in fact complying with the procurement law and are they getting the best cost that is also available to GovGuam agencies, and if not, that's when we hold them to the fire," said the senator. "We need to take a look at it but at the same time I'm insisting that the charter school council has to play a major role here, that's why they exist."

Blas said the council will be meeting with DOE to discuss these concerns on Friday.

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