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Sauvie Island Academy won't see bump in district funding

Scappoose superintendent cites legislation as guiding document for charter school funding


by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Despite requests by Sauvie Island Academy, the Scappoose School District will not increase funding to the school on a per-student basis. Sauvie Island Academy last week signed a three-year renewal contract with the Scappoose School District to maintain the charter school’s status with the district.

Despite requests from Sauvie Island Academy students, teachers and administrators over the past few months to receive more funding from the district, the contract does not include an increase in the charter school’s percentage of funds received through its weighted Average Daily Membership, or ADMw, which the state uses to calculate how much per-student funding districts are to receive from the State School Fund.

Currently, Sauvie Island Academy receives 80 percent of its ADMw per student — the legal minimum for districts to provide to public charter schools — while public schools in the district receive the full 100 percent.

Under Oregon law, a school district sponsoring a charter school is to contractually establish payment for providing educational services to the schools’ students.

JupeThe law states the payment shall be an amount at least equal to 80 percent of the school district’s general purpose grant per ADMw for students who are enrolled. The remaining 20 percent stays with the sponsoring district.

On April 14, representatives from Sauvie Island Academy approached the Scappoose School District board of directors to ask for equity in school funding. Those who spoke at the meeting noted that charter schools sponsored by their respective school districts receive only 80 percent of the funding their public school counterparts receive per student.

Darla Meeuwsen, executive director of Sauvie Island Academy, expressed disappointment with the outcome of those efforts.

“The school district has just been very adamant that they are not going to deviate from the current 80-20 split,” she said, adding the only item in the contract she and the district disagreed on was the breakdown of ADMw funding.

Scappoose School District Superintendent Stephen Jupe said the district is providing the school the amount required by law. He also noted that the charter school has certain freedoms the district does not. Meeuwsen

“The law says we have to pass through 80 percent. To my knowledge there are no other districts that pass through more than 80 percent,” Jupe said. “It is the way it is because lawmakers, in their wisdom, decided that was the percent to be passed through and the board signed on the charter on the basis of that.”

Meeuwsen said charter schools in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District and Oregon Trail School District in Sandy receive more than 80 percent ADMw. Those districts did not return calls from the Spotlight for confirmation by press time.

Meeuwsen said although the school wasn’t granted 100 percent of its ADMw this year, she won’t give up on seeking full-funding in the future.

“The next step for full ADM funding will be at the state level,” she said, noting she has been in talks with state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, to see what kind of dialogue she can start at the state level to possibly encourage districts to use the remaining 20 percent to support their charter schools.”

Meeuwsen said districts are not required to spend the 20 percent in any particular way.

“Many legislators say the intention was for districts to use the 20 percent to offset other costs to support public charter schools, but the reality is that isn’t how that’s played out,” she said. “We want to tell legislators how it’s actually working rather than how it was outlined.”

Some student representatives have already brought the issue to state legislators this year. Sauvie Island Academy eighth-graders Austin Hayes and Haylee Hopkins both travelled to Salem in February and March to speak with legislators about what they called “inequitable funding.”

Hayes and Hopkins said the ADMw for the charter school should be raised from 80 to 100 percent and that they felt their education was valued less than other students who receive the full 100 precent.