Last night I attended a meeting for Jeffco charter schools about the upcoming bond and mill levy ballot questions. The district calculated the square footage of their schools and the square footage of charter schools and used that percentage, 3.89%, to determine how much of the 350 million dollar bond will go to charters. Most everyone knows that charter school students are in inadequate facilities. Rather than compensating in the formula for charter schools having to squeeze into smaller facilities, the district decided to exacerbate the existing shortage by giving charter schools less than a per student ratio such as they did in 2004, the last bond and mill levy. Discussing anything about the equity of $13.5 million for charter schools wasn't on the table, charter school leaders were told.
Another taboo topic at the meeting was any opinion that would differ from the school district's legal counsel who said that any project where bond funds are used must be deeded over to the district. The district has to hold title to any building. If a charter school were to use bond funds to renovate the facility they own, they'd have to give the district title for that property. Further, bond counsel believes that debt reduction on an existing charter school facility, isn't permissible with district bond funds.
This limits the types of projects the Jeffco charters can use bond funds on, if the ballot measure is approved. There was no discussion on mill levy proceeds because the district hasn't made a decision on if charter schools will, or will not be, included.
It's very hard for a charter school governing board, operating with a long-term facility plan, to create a meaningful project that meets the restrictions, but will also complement the school's long-term needs. When asked what the district's future plans were should this bond pass (and the last one which passed in 2004) the response was that another bond and mill levy would be pursued in 2012 or 2013. Queried if charter schools could expect to be included in the next bond, the district official leading the meeting stated that it's possible charter schools wouldn't get any money from the next bond; there were no guarantees.