This guest blog post comes from three Renaissance charter operators in response to a recent Notebook story reporting that the District is incurring significant facilities-related expenses at its Renaissance charter schools.
The article claiming that the District is “eating millions in facilities costs” at Renaissance Charters is misleading.
The facts are:
Renaissance Charters’ facilities agreements require that the charters pay for the operating costs of the buildings. That means that the maintenance, cleaning, and utilities costs that the District used to pay are now paid for by the charters.
Charters do have the choice to purchase those services from the District or buy them elsewhere. Every dollar we can save by finding lower cost services is another dollar we can spend on Philadelphia’s students instead.
Capital costs, such as bond payments on District buildings, are funded by the District’s capital budget since the buildings still remain District buildings, Importantly, the revenue for those capital funds also stays with the District – it is not included in the charter reimbursement formula -- so the money doesn’t flow to the charter even if the building is run by a charter. In short, the District’s capital costs are the same before and after a school is turned around by a Renaissance Charter. There is no loss in capital revenue and no increase in capital expense.
Renaissance Charters have actually invested millions of privately donated funds into the buildings – saving taxpayers millions and providing students a better learning environment.
Renaissance Charters save taxpayer money in other ways. They only target the lowest performing schools that are typically under-enrolled, require extra security, and enroll many high needs special education students. Renaissance Charters absorb all these costs without additional funding or subsidies.
But most importantly, Renaissance Charters give taxpayers their money’s worth by reversing years of chronic academic failure and violence and reestablishing high-quality neighborhood public schools. Indeed, as the Notebook has reported, in their first year, Renaissance Charters posted double digit increases in test scores and dramatic decreases in violence – while enrolling the same neighborhood kids. That is a win-win for everyone.
Scott Gordon, CEO, Mastery Charter Schools
Alfredo B. Calderon, President and CEO, ASPIRA, Inc. of PA
Lars Beck, Scholar Academies