Teachers fired. Parents confused. Warning signs debated. Last week, turmoil at Paramount Charter School became the latest South Florida crisis to draw a rash of media coverage, complete with an adversarial TV interview in the school parking lot and attention from charter school critics on liberal blogs.
There’s a lot we don’t know about what’s happening at the school, which seems to have fallen on hard times almost immediately after opening its doors to students for the first time this fall. Paramount administrators haven’t returned calls seeking comment.
But financial and enrollment records tell a story of their own, and can help shed some light on proposed legislative changes aimed, in part, at stopping sudden charter school failures.
When the Broward County School Board approved Paramount’s charter application last year, the school said it planned to enroll more than 1,000 students in grades K-6 during its first year of operation. When the Broward school district took “benchmark” enrollment counts for the school year, enrollment stood at 293. District spokeswoman Nadine Drew said as of last week, enrollment had fallen to 250.
Fewer students means less per-pupil funding. In July, the charter school received two payments from the district. One was for slightly more than $213,000, and one for more than $237,000. In August, it received less than $149,000. In September, it received less than $142,000.
The gap between the school’s projections and the actual number of students enrolled might not explain all the school’s difficulties, but it likely explains some of the problems detailed by South Florida news station WPLG, which described mass teacher firings and other signs of financial trouble. Continue Reading →