Sauvie Island Academy adminstrators, students confront Scappoose School Board

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Sauvie Island Academy student Haylee Hopkins addresses the Scappoose School District Board of Directors about the level of funding granted to the charter school.Students, teachers and administrators of Sauvie Island Academy addressed the Scappoose School District board Monday, April 14, to ask for equity in school funding.

Those who spoke at the Monday 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.

Scappoose School District Superintendent Stephen Jupe said the issue is under discussion as part of the charter school’s contract renewal with the district.

“At major issue is the percentage of funding for ADMw [weighted Average Daily Membership] the charter school should receive, and its still under discussion. At this stage, I think it would be a little premature to contribute an editorial comment,” Jupe said.

Jupe said in an earlier interview with the Spotlight that public schools have extra costs that charter schools do not.

“There are a lot of expenses the district has to incur that aren’t necessarily incurred by the charter school,” Jupe said in early March.

Darla Meeuwsen, executive director of Sauvie Island Academy, disagreed with Jupe’s statement, arguing charter schools have the same expenses to establish and maintain facilities as the district.

“It’s interesting to me. I hear that a lot thrown around at the state and local level, as far as that there are these unidentified costs that districts have,” Meeuwsen said. “We have the same systems without the staffing of a district office, and we must do this with 80 percent of the funds.”

Sauvie Island Academy eighth-graders Austin Hayes and Haylee Hopkins — who both travelled to Salem to speak with legislators about what they called “inequitable funding” in February and March — addressed the board Monday, noting that the ADMw for the charter school should be raised from 80 to 100 percent.

Under Oregon Revised Statute 338.155, a school district sponsoring a charter school is to contractually establish payment for providing educational services to the schools’ students. The 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.

“Sauvie Island Academy has proven to be self-sustaining, even when losing nearly $323,000 of its funding,” Hayes read from a prepared statement. “I think that Sauvie Island Academy has proven to do well with 80 percent ADMw, although it cannot reach its full potential.”

Hayes continued, “Because the school has proven to be self-sustaining, I think that Sauvie Island Academy should receive the full 100 percent ADMw. There is so much this school can do with $323,000. I personally have trouble trying to understand why my education is valued less than those who choose to go to Scappoose Middle School just because I chose to go to Sauvie Island.”

Hopkins approached the board to explain why she values the school and its place-based focus, noting the work students do to remove invasive species, visit nursing homes and more. She explained the close-knit community and personal focus of her education.

Aly Ferris, a sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade homeroom teacher at the school, described to the board that her students feel less valued than public school students, given the difference in funding.

“I can see why my students might think that they aren’t valued as much as students attending Otto Petersen [Elementary School] or the middle school,” she read. “They are receiving significantly less funding than their peers. And to a demographic of people that is especially sensitive to what is fair and what is not, that doesn’t feel fair.”

She continued, “With the rest of their funding, our students would have the opportunity to learn in a classroom that has been built for people of their size; a classroom that is not a cheaply made temporary structure crammed full of lockers, bookshelves, and file cabinets, and that is literally coming apart at the seams trying to accommodate their practically-grown-up-sized bodies — and practically grown-up-sized smells.”

Meeuwsen also read a statement to the board, addressing the law that allows for school districts to absorb the 20 percent of allocated funding per student.

“I would argue that there is a time in our history that black slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person because of how the laws were written, therefore people were convinced that it was right. However, I do not believe just because the law allows for public charter schools to be counted as four-fifths or 80 percent of a person in regards to funding, that it is right,” Meeuwsen said.

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