Wednesday, July 02, 2008

New wrinkle in Catholic to charter conversion

While the approval has been granted by the DC Public Charter School Board for converting seven formerly private parochial schools over to publicly funded charters, and despite promises by the Mayor's office that it would, DC hasn't actually allocated any new funds to cover the cost of the influx of new students to the District's charter system.
District officials disclosed last week that they are still looking for the money to finance the schools, a sum that could come to as much as $16 million this year. They have told the nonprofit operator, Center City Public Charter Schools, that its first quarterly payment from the city -- due by July 15 under District law -- will be delayed.

Charter advocates say it underscores the poor level of coordination between Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, the D.C. Council and the board responsible for oversight of charter schools.

Center City said the city's failure to meet its obligation will not prevent it from opening the schools as planned. Joseph Bruno, treasurer and member of its board of directors, said lines of credit and foundation grants would meet any immediate cash needs. The seven schools, which instruct students up to the eighth grade, have received more than 1,200 applications for the 2008-09 academic year, a number that school officials said could grow.

This month, the D.C. Council approved $366 million for 63 charter schools as part of its fiscal 2009 budget. City officials said that it did not include Center City in their budget planning because its application was not approved by the D.C. Public Charter School Board until June 16 -- three months after the District's spending blueprint was completed. The Catholic school conversion was also atypical, they said, because of the quick turnaround involved. Most new charters spend 12 to 15 months finding a building, hiring staff members and enrolling students. Center City's plan involved a set of existing schools ready to re-open as secular institutions in the fall.

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