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Lagunitas directors mull over Ross Valley charter payment – ​​Marin Independent Journal

Lagunitas School District administrators will try again after deadlock over a $138,000 payment plan to Ross Valley Charter to cover tuition for 17 students who live in the district but attend the Fairfax charter school on the road.

The district board of trustees voted 2-2 with an absent trustee at its Feb. 17 meeting on approving a two-part payment plan to pay for the charter school for the 2021-22 school year. . A second vote is scheduled for March 10, Superintendent John Carroll said.

“It’s a monstrous program, and it’s probably unconstitutional,” said trustee Richard Sloan, who voted against the two-payment plan with board chairman James Sanders. Administrator Steve Rebscher was absent. Trustees Denise Bohman and Amos Klausner voted yes, albeit reluctantly.

“I agree with you,” Bohman told Sloan of his criticism of changes to the state charter school law that now require some school districts to reimburse charter schools for taking their students away. residents. “But legally we have to pay it.”

The charter payment, a 445% increase from the $30,000 paid to the charter for seven students the previous year, is a huge financial blow, Carroll said.

“We’re going to have to spend in deficit in a year that we thought would be one of our most financially positive,” Carroll said. “Our tax base is on the rise.”

Carroll said the $138,000 could have been at least a 3% pay raise for staff in the small West Marin district with about 180 students and an annual budget of just under $4 million.

“We were heading into collective bargaining with teachers and classified staff, and I was thinking, ‘We can probably do a pretty good raise,'” Carroll said. “Now we have nothing.”

At the same time, Carroll said he doesn’t expect any layoffs this year or next. Layoff “pink slips” or warning notices must be submitted by the March 15 deadline, per the state’s education code.

However, Carroll said if the charter’s “encroachment” on district registration continues to grow at the same rate it has this year, layoffs may be needed in the future.

“That would be the worst case scenario,” he said, adding that families and district staff appear to be very happy with school programs at this time. “It’s not going to happen.” The district has approximately 11 teachers, 17 classified staff, and two full-time and one part-time administrative staff.

Sharon Sagar, chair of the Ross Valley Charter board, said it was not the school’s decision on funding for its students.

“The state legislature determines how public schools are funded,” Sagar said in an email. “Neither charter schools nor district school boards can violate these funding laws.”

Kate Lane, assistant superintendent of the Marin County Office of Education, said Lagunitas was by far the hardest hit this year of all the so-called “base-aid” or “community-funded” school districts in Marin near Ross Valley Charter.

The funding crunch was due to part of a 2019 state law, SB 75. The law stated that Basic Aid Districts — which are funded by property taxes, as opposed to a per-student state grant formula — were now required to pay per-student costs to charter schools that enroll students. students from their districts.

The state continues to cover per-student costs for districts that do not receive basic support. The cost per student is $8,935 for transitional kindergarten through third grade and $8,215 for fourth through sixth grade, according to Lane.

Lane said she’s not sure why Lagunitas has been so affected this year, but said parents may have been frustrated with Lagunitas’ long stay in remote learning during the pandemic. The West Marin District was the last in Marin to transition to in-person learning. Lane also noted that a popular Lagunitas teacher left the district to go to Ross Valley Charter.

Carroll rejected both notions. He said he conducted his own informal survey of the families of the 17 students who left and “none of them expressed dissatisfaction with remote learning”. One family even said they wanted more remote learning, he said.

Only one family mentioned the teacher who left, he said.

“For me, it was all about geography,” Carroll said. “We are the closest neighborhood to the charter. If a family lived in Woodacre, for example, it’s just as close for them to drive to the charter in Fairfax as it is for them to drive to Lagunitas,” which is in the San Geronimo Valley.

In addition to Lagunitas, other Marin Basic Aid Districts sending students to Ross Valley Charter for the current year are Kentfield, Shoreline Unified, Sausalito Marin City, and Miller Creek.

The total transfer rate is 27 students, according to Lane. This means the other four districts split a total of 10 students, with Lagunitas sending the highest number at 17.

The Ross Valley School District, which is slated to become basic aid — or community-funded — in 2022-23, has anticipated its charter payments for months, according to Superintendent Marci Trahan.

“We learned what the move to community-funded status in 2022-23 will mean for RVSD,” Trahan said in an email. “We had this topic on the agenda for our board meetings on 12/14/21, 1/11/22 and 1/25/22.”

The district has released a list of frequently asked questions about state funding changes on its website, said Trahan.