Charter school’s over-enrollment could be to blame for decline in GDOE enrollment

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Enrollment decreased by 3.1 percent over the last three years.

Guam – The Guam Department of Education will be pushing lawmakers to separate the charter school budgets from GDOE’s budget due to over-enrollment issues.

In a press release issued late this afternoon, GDOE announced that there has been a decline in overall student enrollment, attributing the decline to the opening of two new charter schools.

However, GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez also indicated that at least one charter school could be to blame for the decline in enrollment and potential financial issues.

This is because Guahan Academy Charter School enrolled 980 students this school year despite a statutory cap of 740 students.

“With $8,060,000 being taken from GDOE’s budget to support 1,240 students at the two charter schools, it is alarming that GDOE has only lost 949 students,” said Fernandez. “This means that funding is being taken from GDOE at a rate of $8,493 per student to support the charter schools. It looks like we are subsidizing the charter school’s students coming from private school or off-island or new pre-kindergarten students.”

You can read the press release from GDOE below:

PRESS RELEASE

October 11, 2017

GDOE Enrollment at 30,112 Students as of September 30

Enrollment Falls 3.1% Over Past Three Years as New Charters Open

Earlier today, the Guam Department of Education (“GDOE”) released its official enrollment numbers as of September 30, 2017.  Total student population for GDOE was reported at 30,112 students, a decline of 646 students (-2.1%) since last year and a total decline of 949 students (-3.1%) since 2014.  The schools most impacted in terms of declining enrollment, reporting a drop of 7% or more over the past three years include the following (in declining percentage loss by level):

Elementary Schools:

  • L.B. Johnson Elementary School, Tamuning (-22%)
  • D.L. Perez Elementary School, Yigo (-13%)
  • P.C. Lujan Elementary School, Barrigada (-12%)
  • Juan M. Guerrero Elementary School, Dededo (-9%)
  • C.L. Taitano Elementary School, Sinajana (-7%)
  • Maria Ulloa Elementary School, Dededo (-7%)
  • M.U. Lujan Elementary School, Yona (-7%)
  • Wettengel Elementary School, Dededo (-7%)
  • Oceanview Middle School, Agat (-7%)

Middle Schools:

  • Inarajan Middle School, Inarajan (-12%)
  • Jose Rios Middle School, Piti (-8%)

High Schools:

  • George Washington High School (-12%)* (opening of Tiyan High)

 

These schools will be reviewed by central office officials to determine the impact that the lower enrollment may have on the need for teachers and other employees at the school.

GDOE officials have been anticipating this decline which has coincided with the opening of two charter schools – Guahan Academy Charter School (“GACS”) and iLearn Academy Charter School (“iLearn”) – over the past three years.  This school year, iLearn is authorized and provided funding to support 500 elementary school students.  GACS is funded to support no more than 740 students but has reportedly enrolled as many as 980 elementary, middle and high school students.  This fiscal year, the charter schools will be drawing $8,060,000 from the GDOE budget this fiscal year, at an authorized funding level of $6,500 per student.

Superintendent Jon Fernandez expressed concern at the recent numbers, specifically with the mechanism for funding charter schools from the GDOE budget.

“With $8,060,000 being taken from GDOE’s budget to support 1,240 students at the two charter schools, it is alarming that GDOE has only lost 949 students,” said Fernandez. “This means that funding is being taken from GDOE at a rate of $8,493 per student to support the charter schools. It looks like we are subsidizing the charter school’s students coming from private school or off-island or new pre-kindergarten students.”

Given the possibility that Guahan Academy is not receiving local funding for the 240 students exceeding the 740 budget cap, Fernandez believes that the per-pupil funding situation would be even worse for the department.

“If we had to absorb Guahan’s 240 students back into the system, that would mean we would have lost only 709 students from GDOE,” said Fernandez. “That means that the $8,060,000 that is going to charters from GDOE is effectively at a rate of $11,368 per student.  I don’t believe that is what the Legislature intended.”

Fernandez indicated that he and the Guam Education Board will continue to push for the separation of the charter school budgets from the GDOE budget, in order to ensure that there are not unintended negative effects on GDOE.

Additionally, Fernandez indicated that GDOE has concerns for the financial stability and sustainability of one of the charter schools and that he would be submitting his findings to that charter school and to the Guam Academy Charter Schools Council this week.

“I support charters, but as we look at the resources being drawn from GDOE and the information gained in validating charter school expenditures, it is important that we strengthen the financial sustainability and accountability of these organizations,” said Fernandez. “If a charter school cannot sustain itself, then GDOE and, more importantly, the many students and families who are depending on that charter school, are going to be impacted down the road. It’s even worse if the charter school has taken on debt obligations that it cannot pay.  I’m hoping that we can look at and deal with these issues now, especially with more charters knocking at the door.”

Fernandez indicated that he would not release the report until it had been provided to the charter school and to the Guam Academy Charter Schools Council for their response and review.

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