MAT-SU—Charter schools in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough are a step closer in achieving funding parity with traditional schools here, thanks to some measures adopted unanimously Tuesday night (April 17) by the Borough Assembly, and sponsored by Assemblymember Jim Colver.
Charter schools are public schools. They receive state enrollment funding. However, charter schools are not eligible to build facilities from school bond monies. Last October Mat-Su voters passed a $214 million school bond, 70 percent of which is paid by the state. Charter Schools pay a lease if they are on private land. They receive the minimum amount of funding from local property tax dollars. Education overall receives 75 percent of local tax dollars. Most charter schools do not offer bus or lunch service.
“Through our creative work here tonight, the Mat-Su Borough is leading the way in the state for charter schools to begin achieving parity in funding with traditional schools,” Colver said. “We must treat all our students equally.”
In a single night the Assembly adopted three measures that help charter schools gain balance in funding. The Assembly:
• Approved a site on public land for a permanent school for Fronteras Spanish Immersion Charter School near Bogard Road. The school has existed for five years and cannot grow without new, suitable space. Testimony of staff and parents told stories of carpeted gym walls, trash cans for basketball hoops, poor water quality, and no meeting space large enough to accommodate parents at the leased site.
• Appropriated $278,812 for five additional new classrooms for Academy Charter School from a school site reserve fund. The money is a match for a state grant. The project will total 10 new classrooms. Currently students are taught in portables that were scheduled for demolition 15 years ago.
• Created a way to repay property taxes to charter schools by adding $139,000 to the minimum school district funding. The increase was collected from the property taxes paid by the charter school sites.
Assemblymember Ron Arvin asked for the property tax rebate.
“I asked if we could create a way so we can plow these property tax dollars that private landowners pay the borough for tenants that are charter schools. … The borough owns all the public school facilities. The school district and those facilities are not burdened with a property tax. … This is another imbalance that charter schools face when they’re trying to deliver the excellent public education that they are giving students in those facilities…It’s big dollars $10,000, $20,000. It’s big dollars to a charter school,” Arvin said.
Colver said charter school leases are typically leases like commercial property leases. Taxes, maintenance, and utilities are the responsibility of the charter school. Here are the amounts, of property taxes paid by charter schools, Colver said. American Charter School $5,989, BirchTree $44,771, Fronteras $29,989, Midnight Sun $48,525, Twindly Bridge $10,430. This is where the $139,000 comes from, Colver said.
Arvin said the school district is on record saying it is their intent to put the property tax money back into charter schools.
On the Academy Charter vote, Assemblymember Steve Colligan looked at the extra classrooms gained as a solid investment.
“This is a high value proposition for the community. We’ve visited this charter school and others. I’m very impressed with the management of the school, the participation by family and teachers, I think it’s very high value, and it’s matching state funds. As they do great work and perform well, I think we’ll see the state legislature participate and this is our small part. …This is a big value, having an educated population is part of that, and a work-ready work force. I’m just really impressed,” Colligan said.
Two corrections were made in this news release: charter schools do receive minimum funding from local tax dollars, and some do offer bus and lunch service.
For more information call Assemblymember Jim Colver at 746-5300 or email Public Affairs Director Patty Sullivan at
Photo of 7th and 8th grade boys playfully striking a dramatic pose with roses at Fronteras Spanish Immersion Charter School.