Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


October 24, 2013

STEAM Studio faces sharp concerns

Officials fear funding loss from charter high school


Birnbach offered a different take in an email provided to The Townsman that he originally sent to the chairmen of the Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen, as a member of the STEAM charter school charter team, not as a town official.

“It appears that the reimbursement to the district (each year for six years) will be significant,” Birnbach said.

By his calculations using the most recent numbers available — a $15,871 per-pupil tuition rate — the town would be reimbursed $1.59 million if 100 Andover students enroll in the first year.. Then, after five years at 25 percent reimbursement, the town would receive $3.57 million for those 100 students lost.

Throughout those first six years, “while the district no longer incurs the cost to educate the students, the district will still receive a rebate from the state,” Birnbach wrote.

Officials agreed that any of the scenarios being discussed would take years to develop. With the charter enrollment increasing year to year, the town would be reimbursed 25 percent of the charter school’s tuition from the second to sixth year of the school’s operation, Gilbert said.

Then, once year seven starts, the town would receive no reimbursement for money lost to the charter school, according to Gilbert.

That also assumes the school would enroll only Andover students. By design, students could be enrolled from other surrounding communities if Andover students don’t fill all the seats via an enrollment lottery, Gilbert said.

The school district also would not likely share the full hit of the lost money, given that the school’s operating budget recently made up about 44 percent of the town’s overall budget, she said.

Costello, who attended the meeting, said the AEA has taken a “position of opposition” against the charter school proposal. She encouraged officials to fight the STEAM plan.

“It’s far from a done deal, and I think it’s up to all of us — and I include the AEA,” she said.

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