Elmwood Village Charter School Founder and Operations Manager Liz Evans talks about the need for fair charter school funding in this Buffalo News op-ed.
Albany must fix formula that handicaps children
My daughter used to have a stomach ache every school day. She was attending a top-rated Buffalo public school, yet dreaded leaving the house each morning. As a parent, I wanted her to be happy and love learning.
Because of her unhappiness, I dove in and, with the help of five others, put together a charter application for Elmwood Village Charter School (EVCS). We wanted to create an excellent public school focusing on the whole child, including social and emotional learning.
EVCS was built from the ground up, through volunteer efforts, with no financial assistance. In fact, one of the founders took the remarkable step of putting her house up as collateral to secure a line of credit so that we could open the school.
The huge financial challenges didn’t end there. Despite how well EVCS performs, we’re operating with less funding than other public schools.
Last year, state leaders passed a law giving new and expanding charters in New York City space in the form of co-locations, or funding for space. But the law leaves every single charter outside of New York City out in the cold – schools like EVCS. This omission affects 49,000 children. Almost all the excluded charters divert money from operating budgets to pay rent or mortgages.
Our 350 students outperform the district in state averages in math and English language arts. Last year our students were 43% proficient in ELA and 52% in math under Common Core, compared to a statewide average of 31% in ELA and 36% in math.
But Buffalo’s charter students receive only 60 cents on the dollar compared to what students in traditional district schools receive. This has forced some parents, including one from EVCS, to sue New York State for equitable funding. The Brown v. NY lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the state’s charter school funding scheme.
Because of our success, there’s a huge demand for more seats. Right now, we have a waiting list of 600 kids. We want to serve more students and have discussed replication, but we would need a new building, which is out of our reach.
A common-sense way to solve the problem is to provide facilities funding to all the state’s charter schools. Charter schools in Buffalo are desperate for affordable and appropriate space and are requesting space in district buildings. If we all received facilities funding, this race for space would not be an issue.
My daughter had a wonderful seven years at EVCS. She gained a sense of belonging, competency and confidence. EVCS is a wonderful place for students, and I hope more children in our city have a chance to experience what she did.
We hope lawmakers hear us. We aren’t asking for special treatment, only fairness. Please allow all charter schools access to facilities funding this year.
Founder and Operations Manager
Elmwood Village Charter School
This article originally appeared in February 1, 2015 edition of The Buffalo News.
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