FUSD’s Victim Mentality
By Elisha Dorfsmith
Hand wringing over a $6 million gap in next year’s FUSD budget has started and once again, district supporters are pointing fingers at everyone but themselves. As usual, the finger pointing comes accompanied by lies and accusations that I cannot ignore.
The biggest lie perpetuated by FUSD supporters is the lie that Arizona charter schools receive special treatment and funding and have more freedom in terms of enrollment than district schools. We are led to believe that charter schools have it made while district schools are dealing with all kinds of unfair disadvantages. This debate has been going on for a long time and FUSD champions are still using the same old tired arguments.
One of FUSD’s most vocal supporters recently said the following when I pointed out the success of certain charter schools:
“BUT remember, Charter schools don’t spend money on transportation and don’t take special ed students. So comparing public to charter is not really that fair.”
Charter schools don’t take special ed students??? Really? I though I cleared that up a while ago when I posted a blog proving that Arizona Charter Schools MUST Accept All Students.
If that’s not bad enough, I was recently told by a friend that two other big district supporters have frequently said that certain local charters will not take non-white students. These kinds of lies show just how low some people are willing to stoop in their defense of the status quo. It’s sickening and it needs to stop.
Now let’s take a closer look at funding:
Can somebody honestly tell me how FUSD can lose hundreds of students each year and expect their budget to keep increasing? How many students will they lose before they decide that it’s time to cut back? I’m sure you know the answer to both questions. In fact, district defenders will say that the reason they are losing students is because they are underfunded. It’s so much easier to play the blame game than to take an objective look at yourself.
If anybody should be crying, it should be charter schools.
When was the last time a charter school was allowed a budget override? When was the last time a charter made an accounting error that overcharged taxpayers and was not forced to immediately pay it back? Of course, the answer is never. Charters are often forced to hold private fundraisers just to get by. Here are some interesting facts:
Funding for charter and district schools is different in several ways, such as
(1) district schools receive money from property taxes, and charter schools
do not receive property tax money; (2) district schools receive money from
bonds and levies, and charter schools do not have access to this money; and
(3) district schools receive state funding for new buildings and building
improvements, and charter schools are not eligible for this money.
So is the Flagstaff Unified School District really a victim or do charter schools have a much bigger uphill battle to fight? I think it’s time to get past the emotional knee jerk reactions and look at the truth.
Charter schools are clearly at a financial disadvantage.
For more information on the state of local charter schools, the Arizona Daily Sun helps put things in perspective HERE.
As far as the charter enrollment myth, I think I have a solution for those who keep insisting that charter schools are turning away special ed students even though it’s against the law. Let’s inform parents of their rights. FUSD should explain on the front page of their website that charter schools are required by law to accept all students. When parents of students with learning disabilities realize they were lied to and start pulling their kids out of the district and putting them in charter schools, district lawyers can be standing by to ensure that the transition is smooth and that charters follow the law. Everybody wins!
My experience in debating FUSD supporters who use the special ed excuse is that they want the money that students with learning disabilities bring in. At the same time, they want to to be able to blame their failures on having too many special ed students. They pretend that the odds are stacked against them and mention how “unfair” things are as often as they can. For a long time the general public believed them. Now people are waking up to the reality.
Charter schools are increasingly being attacked because, contrary to what FUSD would have you believe, parents everywhere are pulling their kids out of the district and sending them to charters. It’s unfortunate that excuses get in the way of real solutions. FUSD should stop playing the victim and focus on what we pay them to do…educate children.