Equal Opportunity

The Corbett Charter School admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in the administration of its educational polices, admissions policies and athletic and other school-administered programs.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Corbett Fiscal Miracle

This post might seem out of place on the Charter School blog. But I know that many charter parents have connections in the Corbett community and must be aware that there are questions in the community regarding why Corbett has monetary concerns. I want you to have clear, accurate information on which to form your own judgments.

Money for K-12 Schooling in Oregon is in short supply, and the situation appears to be getting worse year by year. Corbett School District, our sponsor, is having to make reductions of nearly $950.00 per pupil next year. That's a lot of money. It's very similar to the amount of the proposed operating levy that was defeated prior to the creation of Corbett Charter School. The Charter School has filled a tremendous gap, preventing unimaginable cuts that would already have been made if not for its existence. The District went to the community again for a levy this past May, again for a similar amount, and it too was defeated by virtually the same margin.
So the gap in funding from the state continues to eat away at Corbett's resources. It is once again time to either cut expenditures or increase revenues. And times like these always start folks wondering: "Isn't it the District's fault if it can't live within its means?" Well, the District always has and will continue to live within its means. THAT'S WHAT CUTS ARE! Cuts are reductions in expenditures in order not to outspend resources.

But still, why does Corbett have to cut so much? Doesn't that mean that better planning was needed? Shouldn't Corbett have been more efficient?

Not according to any realistic, number-based assessment. Not according to Multnomah County's independent Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission. Corbett voluntarily belongs to this watch-dog group, which is tasked with reviewing all municipal budgets in Multnomah County. They publish their results in an annual report.

Before we look at their numbers, it is worth noting the that academic programs at Corbett have been held harmless for the past five years, and college preparatory opportunities as well as the Culinary Arts program have prospered during that time. Corbett has avoided cutting a single day of instruction, ever.

According to TSCC, Corbett's per-pupil funding is the lowest in the County and far below the State average. According the their analysis, Corbett is spending $5800 per pupil on classroom expenditures. The next most efficient district is spending $6000.00, and the County average outside of Corbett is $6566.00, over $700 per student more than Corbett! Money not connected to classrooms is classified as 'Support'. Corbett is spending $2100 per student. THE NEXT LOWEST DISTRICT IS SPENDING $3900.00 (OVER 80% MORE!) AND THE COUNTY AVERAGE IS $4200.00, or DOUBLE what Corbett spends. Corbett spends over 73% of its budget on the classroom, and the next nearest district spends just under 63%. Corbett's total spending? $7900.00. The County Average outside of Corbett (without Riverdale)? $10,766 per ADMr.

On average, other school dsitricts in the county have one staff person for every 9.3 students. Corbett has one for every 13.36! They have 43% more staff!

Oh, and Riverdale is not included in these averages. Riverdale spends twice per pupil what Corbett spends, and so far as I can tell only about 20% of their funding comes from the state. Mostly they pay their own way. But they are a statistical outlier that would skew the data too far in the direction of my argument!

Our achievement for these deficient dollars? Riverdale is the only Multnomah County district that is mentioned in the same sentence with Corbett.

Those who suspect that Corbett's situation must be the result of some sort of management problem are right to wonder. But I suggest that they should wonder why it is that Corbett has available only about 75% of what other districts in the county are spending per pupil. And they might take a moment to wonder, even to marvel, that Corbett's achievement on that meager level of funding has been so extraordinary.

And if folks want to voice their concerns, I suggest that it be toward their legislators. They are the only ones who can change the legal funding formula that profoundly slights Corbett relative to the other schools in the state. It is unfair, and Corbett has been compensating for too long.