MTI: One City Schools should return funds for students it isn’t teaching

One City Schools
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 3:45 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 10, 2023 at 4:04 PM CST

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - In the wake of One City Schools announcing the shutdown of its 9th and 10th grade classes, a Madison teachers union is calling on the charter school to return nearly $475,000 it says the district provided to the school to support those students.

One City Schools revealed that it would close those grade levels, which the Madison Metropolitan School District previously reported would impact 51 students.

In a statement released by Madison Teachers Inc. Tuesday, the group argued that public schools do not have a choice when dealing with staff shortages and must continue to support students. The statement also argues that “2X” charter schools can pick and choose the students they accept.

“MMSD teachers and support staff lovingly embrace all scholars that walk through our doors,” MTI stated. “Public schools do not pick and choose, nor can we just shut down when there are fewer staff.”

One City Schools’ Vice President of External Relations Gail Wiseman said in a statement that the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has a formula for allocating funds to public schools. One City Schools receives per pupil payments each year from DPI that are divided into four payments during the school year, explained Wiseman.

“One City Schools is a careful steward of public dollars,” Wiseman said. “We are 100 percent in compliance with state and federal requirements for spending public dollars. Any claims to the contrary are false.”

Wiseman also contended that the federal funds One City Schools receives are reimbursable grants that must be spent before they can receive a payment from DPI. This means One City Schools does not have anything to repay, according to Wiseman.

The statement references a Wisconsin State Journal article citing Wiseman, who described the emotional toll from the pandemic and stresses in the education system as reasons for having trouble retaining educators. MTI agreed with Wiseman that educators are stressed, and argued against charter schools being able to use public school funds from their local district’s budget.

“If One City is truly interested in the success of the scholars and families they’re returning to MMSD this month, they should commit to return the $472,464 back to MMSD these scholars and families are returning to,” MTI said.

The Department of Public Instruction explained that funding for charter schools like One City are calculated based on the Full-Time Equivalent membership, meaning the enrollment of each student. If a student is attending the school for both count dates, the third Friday in September and second Friday in January, then the charter school is paid $9,264 per pupil. If a student only attends during one of those two dates, then the payment is half that. Independent charter schools receive aid payments four times per year.

DPI also noted that One City Preparatory Academy is in the second year of a five-year Wisconsin Charter Schools Program subgrant for opening the school. One City is not expected to pay back those funds that have already been dispersed for eligible expenses. To date, One City has claimed $150,000 of the subgrant. All of the claims occurred during the 2021-22 school year, DPI added. The school is working to get an approved budget for the 2022-23 school year.

DPI stated that it is reviewing the funding situation and will discuss any possible requirements that may be needed with the closure announcement. The school is not expected to have to pay back funds that have already been dispersed for eligible expenses. One City Preparatory Academy has claimed $150,000 of the subgrant to date. All of these claims occurred during the 2021-22 school year.

The Madison Metropolitan School District opened an emergency enrollment center for One City Schools students impacted by the closure on Friday, Jan. 6. MTI claimed that if scholars and their families do not register with MMSD by this Friday, Jan. 13, their enrollment would not count for MMSD’s spring semester funding, meaning One City Schools would keep the funding for those students.

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