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Our View: Choice of school takes back seat to economic reality

Our View
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When it comes to educating our youth, having a choice in where our children go to school is paramount. But how necessary are those new choices when they aren’t much different than the ones we already have? This seems to be the quandary the Placer County Office of Education is facing when it comes to the new charter school it’s proposing. Not only does the proposed new school duplicate much of the services currently offered in many districts in the county, but the office of education wants a 10,000- to 25,000-square-foot facility that could cost as much as $1.5 million. Other money questions also come to mind — staffing costs, new hire costs, program costs, etc. In an economy where teachers are constantly getting pink slips, and districts are talking of bankruptcy, it seems foolish to be pushing a program that will cost a large amount and take away from like-programs that are already working. It’s not hard to see that now is not the time to spend on a school such as this, and more importantly, there isn’t a need. Proponents of the charter school say it would give parents a choice on where to send their children. This is true, but it’s also the general assumption that many of the students that would be going to this school are those that have trouble in a normal learning environment — something the office of education has not been completely clear on. A concern that has been voiced by Dave Horsey, Placer Union High School District superintendent. Some of these students in the intensive care programs can’t legally be on school campuses, according to Placer County Superintendent of Schools Gayle Garbolino-Mojica. The proposed charter school doesn’t seem like a place that many parents would view as a good choice for their students. It’s not to say that these programs don’t have a need and a place, and they aren’t just for at-risk children, either. Home-school students would also be able to use this new charter school. But here’s the good news, many of these programs are already here. In Auburn for example, Maidu High School offers independent study services (aka home schooling) to students from all over Placer County. The school is accredited by the Western Association of School and Colleges and has a stellar reputation in Northern California. Maidu can also offer help to those who don’t do well in the traditional school setting, too. And like the proposed charter school, Maidu High School accepts all students. Another point to keep in mind is that the Placer County Office of Education is currently offering another “option” when it comes to independent study programs, separate from the districts — iLearn Academy. Lastly, money comes into play, as it always does in these economic times. Currently, public schools receive roughly $5,000 per year, per student. If the charter school opens, it could take that money away from districts, which are already strapped for cash. On top of that, the charter school could take in an additional $3,000 per year, for each at-risk student that attends for a grand total of $8,000 a year, per child. While it could be a boon to the charter school, it will certainly hurt our school districts that already offer these programs. While proponents say they want their right to choose, doing so could negatively impact those that are happy with the choice they’ve already made.