CDE

RVC: Teetering on the brink of financial ruin?

The writing is on the wall. Ross Valley Charter is not financially viable. It is time to take a good long look at what the drastic difference between projected and realized enrollment means for the future of the school.

RVC projected a total enrollment of 222 students in their charter petition, which the State Board of Education approved after our district and county denied it largely due to financial unviability. The charter’s numbers have fallen a whopping 45% below their projections, far beyond the 25% level of decline which should trigger a material revision to ensure it has a sound financial budget, yet the State has declined to require one.  When the school opened on August 23rd, their total enrollment was 131. As they did all throughout summer, the charter claimed they would have new applicants and continued new interest. And yet, their enrollment has actually declined by an additional 5% during the first 3 weeks of school. At this time, they have only 124 students, almost 100 students less than projected. As a result, Ross Valley Charter is in a dire financial situation.

For 124 children, the charter receives less than one million dollars in ADA for the year. Based on the charter’s July financial report, the monthly payroll costs are $92,000, which is a yearly cost of $1.1 million. This means that the ADA is insufficient to cover the payroll costs, let alone the rent, subsidizing free and reduced lunches, office expenses, legal fees and all the other costs associated with operating a school. The charter opened its doors $400K in debt, including $130k in personal loans. They have already spent almost all of the $250K loan from the CDE they deposited in July. By our estimates, the charter will be out of money by March.

At their last board meeting, they stated they will not be able to make payroll in October without going further into debt and approved seeking additional short term personal loans of up to $100,000. These loans are meant to cover costs until the school receives a check from the CDE in October. However, here's the rub, the CDE sends three checks throughout the year. The first is based on a final enrollment projection given in July and the second two are based on actual attendance. The check that is coming to the charter school next month is based on 172 students, the number that the charter gave the CDE in July. However, the remaining checks, arriving in December and the spring, will be adjusted based on the actual attendance numbers released next month causing the school to be drastically underfunded later in the year.

On top of all that, the charter’s Memo of Understanding with the State Board of Education requires the charter to have reserves of at least 5% or 55K.  The charter does not have this cash and thus is already in violation of the MOU.

Charter enrollment has been consistently overstated and has persistently declined. Its finances are depleting. Hard earned taxpayer money is being wasted on a school that will not survive. Charter students will have their education interrupted when it fails. The truth about RVC's finances needs to be acknowledged and the State needs to intervene. The current situation is irresponsible and unfair to all of the children and tax payers in Ross Valley.

 

Questions worthy of consideration: How will my child be affected?

All parents of children enrolled in Ross Valley Charter should be questioning the charter’s viability and longevity. At the RVSD board meeting in June 2017, the RVSD staff discussed saving spots for children returning to the district from the charter.

By now, most people have heard the pleas not to enroll in RVC, for a perceived “gain” that is of little distinction from our wonderful neighborhood schools. But have they considered what their own child(ren) will lose?

Most people are also aware that RVC will have a serious negative impact on hundreds of children. But perhaps it is now time to explore the impact on RVC-enrolled children? We are curious: Have you considered the risk that is inherent with signing your child up for an unproven school, with a dubious financial future? 

  1. Will the charter school director be successful running RVC given he has assisted, yet never led, a school—let alone a brand new one? MAP enjoyed the deep knowledge, necessary administrative infrastructure, and support of a highly functioning district and its resources.

  2. Will the special education director meet the needs of the children given that (1) she just completed her special ed degree in last month; (2) has no experience being the primary teacher in a special education program for an entire school year; and (3) has no experience running an entire special ed program, particularly one that has been given a unrealistically low budget?

  3. As the charter has been actively recruiting English Language Learners and children with special needs, how much experience do RVC teachers have working with multiple children falling into these categories? At MAP, the teachers had disproportionately fewer numbers of these students. How will the time required to now serve these children, whom they historically did not serve, impact the children who require differentiation at the very high performing end of the academic spectrum?

  4. Is the charter school budget viable despite the current enrollment dropping by over 40% since its petition was approved?  The Marin County Office of Education unanimously denied the charter petition due to unlikely financial viability over 3 years and that decision was based on a full enrollment of 220 students. Overhead is fixed, income is now meaningfully lower, and margins are razor slim. How will the school handle the inevitable unanticipated expense?

  5. Are you aware that RVC is relying on an average donation of $700 per child in its budget?

  6. Will the Prop 39 charter school be able to attract enough young children to replace the large number of fourth and fifth graders who will quickly age out?

  7. If the state does not allow RVC to open due to the large drop in enrollment, or if you or your child is unhappy at RVC, where will your child end up? There may be unused classrooms at your neighborhood school, or your child may need to be placed at another school, where there is space in a grade. 

  8. What will it be like for littles to share a campus and building with middle schoolers?

  9. Are you aware that RVC is barely meeting the number of in-district children required for Prop 39, and may not be entitled to space at White Hill in 2018?

  10. Are you aware that your child's sibling doesn't have a legally guaranteed spot at RVC?

  11. How long will you be sitting in traffic driving your child to and from White Hill every day?  How will the neighborhood feel about the traffic increase, given that there was nearly zero interest from RVC families in coordinating a bus?

  12. Are you aware that progressive education-seeking families, who were exposed to the MAP experience in 2016-17, chose to remain at their wonderful neighborhood school?  For example, nine students whose parents had signed intent to enroll in RVC forms were placed in K at Wade Thomas, with a MAP teacher.  By the end of the school year, not a single student's parents had elected to enroll their child in RVC. Have you taken a moment to question the discrepancy between the magical marketing and the reality of what RVC will be?

  13. When will they hire two dedicated, credentialed teachers to teach your child art and music? When will they even be able to afford to?

  14. Is it in the best interest of your child (and family) to be a part of an unproven experiment? If it fails—or is not what you had hoped it would be— your local school community will happily and genuinely welcome you back. Yet, have you considered the energy required of your child to adapt to a new environment, with new friends and teachers, perhaps mid-year?

  15. Are you positive, and have you independently confirmed, that your out-of-district child will have a space in a classroom in year two and beyond, as the facilities provided by RVSD are only based on in-district enrollment?

  16. Is your leadership being honest with you?

 

Your neighborhood schools welcome you to our dynamic learning communities. Thrive with us.  Please reconsider.