A report presented by the School Committee at Monday night's Tri-Board meeting outlines a projected impact that could cost the town millions of dollars if the STEAM Studio Charter High School sets up in town.
STEAM plans to have 100 students its first year, only freshmen. In its second year, it plans to have 200, freshmen and sophomores. In year three, it would be 300 students, three grades. And from the fourth year onward, it would have 450 students, grades 9 to 12.
In that same scenario over that same amount of time, the town would lose more than $5.7 million in Chapter 70 funding from the state.
The Chapter 70 reductions would start in year two at a $1.9 million reduction, and by year seven it would be a $5.7 million reduction. Currently the town receives about $8.5 million in Chapter 70 funding, so the reductions would amount to most of what the town receives.
Why the huge impact?
"The minimum population required for charter school is 30,000, and with our population at 32,000, there’s a disproportionate impact on our budget," School Committee member Dennis Forgue said.
In communities whose budgets are more funded by the state, charter schools and their Chapter 70 funding reductions don't tend to have as much impact on budgets. But Andover pays more of its own budget than many other communities, so the town would feel the hit more.
"Supporters are promoting this as a model for innovation, but they have total blinders on about this," School Committee member Barbara L'Italien said.
A charter school in Gloucester was opposed by many in that city and shut down last year in its third year in operation after it ran out of money. Brockton has defeated state charter proposals twice.
There are two kinds of charter schools, state and local. Local ones are controlled by local school departments. State ones are not. So what if a student goes to a state charter school but then decides to go back to local public school?
"[STEAM] is a commonwealth charter, not local charter," Kerry Costello, president of Andover Educational Association, said. "After Oct. 1, if students migrate back to public schools, that money’s gone for the year."
Several at the meeting questioned the idea of having a charter school in the town at all to compete with Andover's public high school.
"We have a high performing school, so I’m of the opinion that
we don’t need to have this," L'Italien said.
Birnbach did not attend Monday night's Tri-Board meeting.