“In the last few years, even as we’re growing, we’ve been making pretty substantial cuts to our program (including) letting a number of people go,” Taylor said. “We have potentially a one-time opportunity to make a huge impact. How do we maximize what we can do for every kid who is under our roof? It really is an interesting and powerful opportunity for us to make an impact.”
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Last summer’s state budget bill established a $30 million per year fund to reward high-performing charter schools. All four local recipients (and most statewide) qualified under the first pathway, which has three quality requirements. The school’s sponsor must have been rated Exemplary or Effective on its last evaluation, the school’s performance index on state tests was higher than the public school district in which it is located two years in a row, and the school got an overall “A” or “B” for student growth on the most recent report card.
Once a school is designated as a Community School of Quality, it retains that designation for the following two years. That means these four schools will receive funding again next year, although the dollar amount likely will shrink, as some new schools likely will qualify based on the coming state report card’s data.
They would also receive funding in 2021-22, unless the program is changed in the next two-year state budget.
Taylor said DECA is still deciding how the schools will use the extra funding. He said a few likely areas are buying updated curriculum and materials for students and teachers, as well as doing a deep study of the high school’s graduates, and what hurdles have stood in the way for the 46% of DECA grads who have not gone on to graduate from college.
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He said the schools are also considering whether there’s a way to use the money to sustainably increase teacher compensation to make it more competitive with public district schools. But he acknowledged the uncertainty of future years’ grant funding makes that more difficult.
Representatives of the Klepinger and Horizon Science Academy schools could not be reached for comment about the grants Monday.