Campbell and Cruz Answer Our School Question
Today we feature the answers to our Salem schools question as provided by School Committee candidates Amanda Campbell and Manny Cruz. There are four challengers for the three open seats. We posted the answers provided by Ana Nuncio and Andrea French on Monday.
The question is.
“Salem currently has multiple charter schools, including one that is not within the Salem Schools System. Is this the right way to use funding for our children, or is there ar better way to create opportunities for our students?”
Amanda Campbell – Per Pupil Spending, Reimbursements Need To Be Consistent
Salem currently has multiple charter schools, including one that is not with the Salem Schools System. Is this the right way to use funding for our children, or is there a better way to create opportunities for our students?
There are a number of different types of charter schools, including some that work with a very specific population that need additional resources outside of the public school. For the purposes of this conversation, I will address charter schools that serve a more general population, such as Bentley Academy Charter School and Salem Academy Charter School.
This has been a contentious topic of conversation, especially with the ballot referendum in last year’s election (question 2). While I think every parent has the right to send their child to any type of school they’d like, be it public, private, or charter, I do have some concerns surrounding the funding of charter schools.
Charter schools are primarily funded by the sending district on a per pupil basis. School districts receive their funding from a combination of state/federal aid and local contributions. In theory, the money should follow the pupil from the sending school district to the receiving charter school; however, reimbursements are inconsistent, and school districts have, at times, been reimbursed significantly less than their per pupil spending.
Sending the per pupil spending rate to the receiving charter school can be problematic because, while the state uses per-pupil amounts to track school spending, educational costs do not actually occur on a per pupil basis.
Specialist teachers (including music, art, and physical education) are usually staffed by building, not per student. Textbooks are purchased in large quantities, as are most educational supplies. These costs will remain the same, even with fewer students. These expenses therefore occur at both the sending public school and the receiving charter school, even though the student funding is only being sent to the charter school.
Transportation also remains the same. The buses will still travel from school to school and throughout the neighborhoods at the same cost, only with slightly fewer students. Additionally, the sending district may incur additional transportation costs to bus children to the charter school.
Keeping these costs in mind, some charter schools may be worth the money that the sending district spends. Free from some of the constraints of a public school, they can innovate and meet needs that may not be met in a more traditional setting.
However, because charter schools do not have the same federal regulation as public schools, there are potential problems. Some use questionable discipline practices, may not serve the entire city population equitably, and are often too selective in their application process, therefore not serving the same types of students as a public school. We must also be vigilant regarding for-profit corporations seeking to make a profit at the expense of our children.
Public schools in Massachusetts must employ highly qualified teachers – those who have gone through a rigorous teacher training program and passed specific content and theory exams. Not every charter school has such high employment standards.
Without a rigorous system of oversight, it’s impossible to know whether taxpayers are supporting an innovative charter school or a less desirable one. Salem’s students deserve a high-quality education, and we have a responsibility to ensure that each school in Salem is providing equitable access to that education.
Manny Cruz – Invest In Improvement Of Our Public Schools
I would like to preface my response to this question by stating that I empathize with those parents, that for their own personal reasons, would prefer sending their child to a charter school rather than one of our public schools. As one of three sons of a remarkable single mom, I have seen firsthand that combination of anxiousness and joy that a parent can experience when it comes to the education of their child. I know that those parents simply what want what is best for their child. As a friend to some of those parents and a mentor to some charter school students, I am rooting for the success of ALL our families and children regardless of which school they enroll in.
The best way to spend Salem taxpayer dollars allocated for the education of our children is to increase access to early childhood education programming (Both Pre-K and in the home) and to continue to invest in the improvement of our Salem Public Schools. If we want to continue to create opportunities for our students and see improvements then when we must continue to sustain and when it is appropriate to increase our investments in experiential learning opportunities, tutoring services, extended learning, professional development for our educators, student, and family support systems, and keeping our classroom sizes small to enhance the overall learning experience. On the campaign trail, I heard from many parents that gave glowing reviews about the ways their kids were involved. One of the things that our Salem parents love the most is our experiential learning opportunities and it is certainly an area worthy of investment.
It is critically important that as a school district we continue to support experiential learning by increasing opportunities for play, creativity, immersive learning experiences, and career exploration. Meaningful experiential learning opportunities will help our students build their character and find/refine their talents, teach them to collaborate and engage with their environment, become engaged learners, and ultimately give them the skills to succeed in both college and career.
If elected to the Salem School Committee, I want to ensure that our Salem Public Schools students can compete with their peers across the Commonwealth and the country when they graduate from high school. One idea, that I certainly think would give our students an advantage as they pursue college or careers would be piloting and implementing a co-op program for some of our Salem High School students. As a graduate of Northeastern, I completed three co-ops and observed the transformative impacts that co-ops and experiential learning had not just on myself but my peers as well. I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight that long before I went to Northeastern I had excellent experiential learning opportunities while I was a student in our Salem Public School. I have fond memories of my time as a peer mediator, class senator, flag football and basketball captain, talent show participant and how those experiences helped prepare me to branch out when I did go to college.
Experiential learning opportunities give our students the ability not just to grow as learners by connecting classroom learning to practical experiences, but also help students develop socially and emotionally by helping them step outside of their comfort zones. Our goal for all our students who are progressing through the Salem Public Schools must be that our students are being set on a path to become critical thinkers and lifelong learners. I look forward to potentially being able to help create and support these opportunities for our students if I am elected to represent our community on the Salem School Committee in November.