Aspen, Carbondale charter schools worried about state cuts |

Aspen, Carbondale charter schools worried about state cuts

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN ” Charter schools in Aspen and Carbondale could be hit hard by last Friday’s education cuts proposed by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter.

Among the initial proposed budget cuts is slashing state funding by 50 percent that helps charter schools cover the cost of building or maintaining their buildings. It would translate to a $14,000 cut for both the Aspen Community School and Carbondale Community School, according to Skye Skinner, executive director of the nonprofit that oversees the schools.

Ritter proposed nearly $632 million in cuts to balance the 2008-’09 state budget last week, a portion of those in education. While the state is constitutionally mandated to keep per-pupil funding relatively even, many special programs appear to be on the chopping block this year.

Many of the proposed cuts, from $34.5 million to construct full-day kindergartens to $1 million for alternative teacher compensation plans, would have little to no impact on the Aspen School District, according to Superintendent Diana Sirko.

The exceptions, she said, are a plan to cut $20 million by reconfiguring the public school finance formula and the cut to charter school construction funding.

Sirko said she couldn’t calculate the exact impact of a new public school finance formula until she saw the new formula.

“Who knows what that means?” she said, comparing the situation to an employer who announces it may recalculate how it determines salaries.

But Skinner voiced concern about the proposed charter school cuts, especially in a year in which fundraising at the two charter schools is down by 55 percent.

“We still have a high level of participation of people supporting the schools, but they’re having to do it at a lower level,” she said.

The Carbondale Community School currently uses the charter school construction funds to help pay a yearly $190,000 bond payment on its facility. The Aspen Community School uses the annual $14,000 to help repair and add efficiency to its aging school buildings.

If they lost the state funds that help them pay for their facilities, the schools would have to take that money out of their operating budgets, said Skinner.

“It’s pretty hard to protect kids from the impact,” she said.

However, on a positive note for Colorado schools, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis said Saturday that Colorado could receive about $415 million for education spending from President-elect Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.

If the plan is passed, said Polis, states could begin seeing the money as early as March.

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