The Charleston County School Board could not come to a vote on a charter school application by the teachers and parents at the district’s Drayton Hall Elementary. The vote split 4-4. The district will likely reconsider the application at a special meeting when all nine members are in attendance.
A state law requires a set amount of money per student at a charter that would grow the school’s budget by some $2 million, according to district staff estimates. District staff are concerned that continued conversions of other district schools could bankrupt the county as it already faces a shortfall of millions of dollars.
“To tell a community that its school will be closed as we give another school a $2 million allocation is a difficult situation to be in,” says Superintendent Nancy McGinley.
The district can deny a charter if it feels the school’s conversion would “adversely affect other students in the district.” Charleston County argues that the school will further impair the district’s already struggling budget and that neighborhood students may have to be bussed elsewhere if the charter is full. If those arguments worked, there would never be another charter in the state — ever.
The district’s other point is that the school’s proposals don’t offer new innovative approaches to instruction — a somewhat subjective argument. School principal John Cobb says the school will offer expanded music and foreign language programs and look out for innovative opportunities that wouldn’t be available under district control.
“We’re asking you to let us get away from the strings that tie our hands,” Cobb says.
Chairwoman Toya Green says her opposition comes down to the money and that this school doesn’t need the extra money. Board member Arthur Ravenel, an adamant charter school supporter, says the district opposes charter schools because it symbolizes a loss in control.
Board member Gregg Meyers, who voted in support of the charter noted he’s disappointed in the results of other charter schools.
“I feel burned as an investor in other schools (including Orange Grove and James Island),” he says. “I have no problem spending the extra money, but I want to know that the outcomes are going to change. We haven’t seen that so far. We spend more and we get the same.”
Also Tuesday night, district Superintendent Nancy McGinley introduced a plan to provide magnet opportunities at five district schools. She noted it was an effort to provide more options for parents and to make district schools “the most attractive option for Charleston County parents.”