By Guest Blogger, Kim Miller, Ridgeview Classical Schools
I will admit that starting a charter school has been an exciting adventure to say the least. I have been down roads and paths I never would have envisioned. Ensuring that the school budget was the financial mission statement in action was certainly a major part of starting a successful charter school. However, continued oversight of the finances of a 730 student school was nothing I planned on. Successfully writing grants, acquiring a bond for the schools' facility, developing current year budgets, and projecting future budgets are only some of the "never envisioned" items. The economic times we are all facing, coupled with an established school whose facility leaves little room for student growth is a particular challenge.
Our board had to notify the teachers of the impending rescission and zero increase in the PPR for the next year or two. Having to convey the result... "no raises" was certainly not a pleasant task, yet it was awesome. What was awesome? Our teacher’s reactions. The teachers understood and accepted the information communicating trust and awareness of the economic situation the state is in, while believing at the same time their board is looking out for them. They are so truly educational professionals.
But, as I continue to look at this situation I am extremely frustrated that the same legislature that can take back funds, has instituted a significant increase in the employers' contribution to PERA. I would certainly prefer giving the increase directly to my teachers. I do have a hard time believing this PERA increase will save PERA from its own "train wreck". The benefits of PERA are awesome but unsustainable, even with the dramatic increases. At best if PPR is flat so should PERA be. Apparently there is some information out there that the legislature is going to look at PERA next year. Why wait? I am all for a decent retirement plan but not at the expense of the students.
Our charter schools are exceptional because our teachers and administrators are exceptional. We have teachers who have to make lifestyle choices so they can "afford" to be teachers at Ridgeview Classical Schools. I know Ridgeview is not the only charter school out there in the same boat. Our teachers fill the most important role on earth. They educate the students of tomorrow, ultimately our future and hope. Education through highly qualified, non-unionized teachers is our future.
At Ridgeview the ultimate goal as stated by our first principal, Dr. Terrence Moore is "to remove ignorance, teaching our students to seek the good, the beautiful, and the true." If you see any other immediate answer to the next couple of years' flat or lowered PPR please share it. If not I would greatly appreciate your joining me in questioning the current and future PERA increases within the context of our current funding crisis. Stay connected with your state representatives. Talk with your districts. Maybe this is a question we can all (charters and traditional government public schools) ask together?