BRUNSWICK

Local charter schools are expected to take on more students from Brunswick as grade levels expand. But that means the Brunswick School District, which this year is paying about a halfmillion dollars in charter school tuition, will pay even more next year with minimal help from the state.

This year, 47 students from Brunswick are enrolled at three charter schools, said Brunswick Superintendent Paul Perzanoski: 35 students have enrolled at Harpswell Coastal Academy; nine are enrolled at Baxter Academy for Technology and Science in Portland; and three are enrolled at Maine Connection Academy, the state’s online — or virtual — charter school.

Seven of those students were home-schooled last year, which Brunswick didn’t have to pay to educate, but now pays to send them to charter schools, Perzanoski said.

So far this year, the school district is expected to pay $490,000, or about $10,000 per student, to send Brunswick students to charter schools, said Perzanoski.

The number of students attending charter schools from Brunswick jumped significantly this year from the 24 that attended charter schools last year.

Perzanoski predicted an additional 24 Brunswick students will attend charter schools next year. The estimate is based on the fact that charter schools have been adding two grade levels every year as they expand.

According to the Maine Department of Education, charter schools are publicly funded schools independent of traditional school systems that have more flexibility over curriculum, instruction, scheduling, staffing and finance. Maine charter schools must accept any Maine student until it reaches capacity.

“We’re certainly not the only ones having difficulty because we’re so close to charter schools,” Perzanoski told the school board Wednesday.

“Skowhegan’s really getting hit,” he said, due to its proximity to Cornville and the Cornville Regional Charter School.

Schools closer to charter schools have a greater chance of students attending such schools. Students from Bruns- wick can be more easily transported to Harpswell Coastal Academy by parents, according to Perzanoski.

Perzanoski lamented the failure of a bill in the state Legislature that he said would have spread out the financial burden of charter schools throughout the state, which is now borne chiefly by school districts.

Similar legislation may make a comeback this year, Perzanoski said.

“I hope it will pass because it will be more equitable,” he said.

“Those of us contiguous to a charter school that are within a decent driving distance end up paying more money,” Perzanoski said in an interview.

Even if changes are made to the state funding formula, the district will never recoup the money it spends to send students to charter schools, said Perzanoski.

“Financing has to be fair and equitable,” Perzanoski told the board, while still giving parents and students a choice in education.

School board member Brenda Clough on Wednesday said that the current method of funding charter schools “creates unpredictability in terms of our budgeting,” because the number of students going to charter schools changes from year to year.

However, board member Corrine Perreault said that families of charter school students, specifically those that had been homeschooled, had been paying taxes without getting school district services.

“In one way, they have been paying toward the school department,” said Perreault. “It’s not like they weren’t supporting the schools before that.”

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THIS YEAR, 47 students from Brunswick are enrolled at three charter schools: 35 students have enrolled at Harpswell Coastal Academy; nine are enrolled at Baxter Academy for Technology and Science in Portland; and three are enrolled at Maine Connection Academy, the state’s online charter school.



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