My turn: Delaying charter school will help solve contentious points

Posted: Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The decision to delay resubmitting the Montessori Borealis Charter was largely a matter of timing and had nothing whatsoever to do with the defensibility of the charter's position. The State Board of Education letter asking for resubmission effectively allowed six days to conduct a great deal of additional work. The Montessori Borealis Academic Policy Committee thought that this was not enough time to adequately address the concerns of the State Board. Further, the committee concluded that by delaying resubmission we would have the opportunity to meet with the community and attempt to resolve the issues that were first brought to our attention on April 5, many months into the public charter application process.

It is my belief that the Montessori community has treated all individuals with respect, a courtesy which has not been reciprocated. As a community we have been publicly subject to misrepresentation, libel, slander and even discriminatory racial slurs.

There are a number of issues I would like to clarify:

• Montessori Borealis has always advocated and will continue to advocate for zero financial impact to the school district. Indeed, members of our budget committee spent many hours working with district personnel to assist in isolating district costs and the financial affect of the proposed charter. Our committee then spent more time making adjustments to the charter budget to reimburse the school district for their services, effectively bringing the financial impact to the school district to zero.

• As stated in the application, it is the intent of the charter to reach 150 students within two years, dramatically increasing the amount received in foundation formula dollars. Since the city appropriation hinges on the foundation amount, an increase in foundation formula simultaneously increases the city "to-the-cap" appropriation. It is Juneau School District policy to not pass the "to-the-cap" amount on to charter schools. When the charter reaches 150 students, I estimate that the "to-the-cap" funding not passed on to the charter will exceed $300,000. Therefore, the Montessori charter would be subsidizing the Juneau School District.

• The Montessori Borealis budget has never been in a deficit position.

• Juneau's Montessori community, rather than being singularly "affluent" or "privileged" is a diverse community with a wide breadth of socioeconomic status.

• The Montessori community has always, and will continue to meet the diversity requirements set forth by the district. In addition to Caucasians with a diversity of European heritage, our community consists of Alaskan Natives, American Indians, Hispanics, African Americans and Asian Pacific Islanders.

• While the impediments for the District Task Force on Equity and Access for Optional Programs may very well have been related to the Montessori program, the lottery developed by the task force has been universally implemented for all alternative elementary programs.

• There is no Montessori preference in the recently implemented district enrollment and lottery procedure.

• There is no parent commitment form for Montessori Borealis. Nor is there a requirement that parents actively participate in the school, although they will be welcomed and encouraged to participate.

• For the 2005-2006 school year, Montessori Borealis organizers identified 34 openings in various grades. As is outlined in the district enrollment and lottery procedure, the first lottery was conducted at the end of May. Following lottery procedures, the openings designated for students of low socioeconomic status and low achievement that have not been filled are being held for the August lottery.

• Federal No Child Left Behind guidelines specifically disallow race to be considered in enrollment of a charter school, but do allow low achievement and economic status to be considered, hence the conditions of the new lottery.

Montessori is an alternative education available in this community for those who choose to participate in the lottery. I encourage the Juneau community to determine the facts for themselves.

• Juneau resident Stephanie Allison is a certified public accountant, a Montessori Borealis Academic Policy Committee member, and a parent of two boys, one in a Montessori classroom.

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