Monday, February 01, 2010

Patrick Henry School Must Be In Budget

This maven was a bit perplexed by the lead story in today’s Times Dispatch Metro section. It said that the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, to which the Richmond School Board granted a charter last year, is not included in Richmond Public Schools’ proposed budget for fiscal year 2011. 1 A similar story appeared in this past week’s Style Weekly. Well, says I, both the TD and Style must be wrong, because how can Richmond Public Schools choose not to fund one of the city’s public schools?

So, I downloaded the recommended budget of the Superintendent of Schools and started searching its 305 pages. I found the introductory page to the section on elementary education and looked at the list of Richmond’s elementary schools. Now, there are 28 elementary schools listed on that page but none of them is named Patrick Henry. Then I went page by page through the school-by-school proposed spending for fiscal year 2011 and again I find no mention of the Patrick Henry school. Can it be that the TD and Style are correct? Well, the Style Weekly article says funding for Patrick Henry will be added later. The TD article says that School Board Chair Kim Bridges indicated that the Board is still looking at the question of charter school funding. Ms. Bridges also indicated that funding decisions had not yet been made for any of the city’s public schools.

Well, says I, that makes it clear—funding for Patrick Henry will be added later. But, is it so clear? I mean, why would the Superintended not even mention Patrick Henry in her budget? It is true that as a charter school Patrick Henry is not subject to operating control by the Superintendent. However, since part of its operations will be funded by the Richmond school district, shouldn’t there at least be a blank line for Patrick Henry in the RPS budget with an asterisk saying “to be determined later?” More important, where exactly is the School Board going to find the nearly $1.5 million that it will have to add to the budget when it gets around to including Patrick Henry?

The Superintendent has presented a balanced budget to the School Board. She made the tough choices and found a way to deal with the school district’s estimated $17.8 million funding gap. As I look at the proposed budget, the Superintendent has matched the school system’s expected $245.8 million of revenue with $245.8 million of expenditures. She has not included a “to be determined” line for Patrick Henry. She has not set aside $1.5 million to fill in later. So, although Chairwoman Bridges indicates that we shouldn’t worry about funding for Patrick Henry school, I am still a bit worried. Where is the money going to come from?

This maven can understand how the Superintendent could leave Patrick Henry out of her budget. She might have assumed that because it is a charter school its funding need not be provided for in her budget. However, her budget is one for the entire school system, not just for the schools under her control. Patrick Henry, as a public charter school created by the Richmond School Board, needed to have been included in her budget. The School Board should have made clear to the Superintendent that she had to set aside funding for Patrick Henry in the budget and that she should not have allocated all of the school system’s revenues and left nothing for Patrick Henry.

The Times Dispatch article indicates that the Patrick Henry school is on the School Board’s agenda for tomorrow night (February 2). This maven strongly suggests that at that meeting the School Board instruct the Superintendent of Schools to provide funding for the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts in the school system’s budget for 2011. They should also direct her to plan to continue funding the school in her future budget submissions.

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