Three SBE-charters struggle financially
(Calif.) Three charter schools authorized by the California State Board of Education have been identified as having some fiscal distress, including Synergy Charter School in Pittsburg where expenses ran ahead of revenues last year by almost $200,000.
Charter operators are allowed under the Education Code to petition the state board for approval of a school that has been denied at the local level, subject to certain conditions. At one point, the SBE had oversight of 33 such charters, today there are 23.
As a condition of approval, each of the SBE charters is required to submit financial and operational information to the state as well as academic performance. Failure to issue the annual fiscal report or disclosure that charter operators have engaged in mismanagement can result in a revocation of the authorization.
In its annual report on the status of the board’s charters issued earlier this month, the California Department of Education found most of the schools met the fiscal obligations.
Fifteen have been found to be in “good” financial condition:
- Aspire Vanguard College Preparatory Academy
- Barack Obama Charter School
- Dixon Montessori Charter School
- Everest Public High Charter School
- Ingenium Charter School
- Lifeline Education Charter School
- Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory High
- Mission Preparatory Charter School
- New West Middle Charter School
- Pacific Technology School–Santa Ana
- Ridgecrest Charter School
- River Montessori Elementary Charter School
- School of Arts and Enterprise Charter School
- Today’s Fresh Start Charter School
Also receiving top marks was High Tech Charter School, which operates six sites: (HT Elementary Chula Vista, HT Elementary North County, HT Middle Chula Vista, HT High Chula Vista, HT High North County, and HT Middle North County).
Two charters were found to be only in fair condition: San Francisco Flex Academy and Western Sierra Collegiate Academy.
Of the two, San Francisco Flex Academy appears to have the more serious financial issues, according to a staff report, largely because it’s enrollment of 150 student isn’t enough to generate the amount of state funding they need.
The school is one of two operated by Flex Public Schools –the other being the Silicon Valley Flex Academy. The CDE noted that the San Francisco school contracts with another entity, K12 Classroom LLC, for curriculum and administrative services.
K12 Classroom, the CDE said, has supported the school with $4.2 million in unpaid services since it opened in 2010-11. School officials have told the state they plan to relocate to a lower cost facility and to recruit more students.
Western Sierra, located in Rocklin, was flagged mostly because of debt service it has on a 30-year revenue bond. State officials said the school is expected to undergo significant growth in the coming year, which should balance the budget.
Synergy Charter School, however, was the only SBE-charter to be found in “poor” fiscal condition.
The CDE reported the school faces a $1 million payment on revenue anticipation notes from 2012-13 but ran an operating deficit in 2012-13 of nearly $200,000. Auditors found that the school’s reliance on borrowing is now impacting its cash flow, creating a high debt ratio that could jeopardize the school’s ability to obtain further financing.
Founded as an alternative to traditional schools by emphasizing technology-driven project-based learning, Synergy has 89 students but hopes to increase that number to 185 by the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year. School officials also hope to eliminate the negative fund balance by 2014-15.