Tanque Verde looks at turning elementary school into charter

2013-05-12T00:00:00Z 2014-10-24T10:13:38Z Tanque Verde looks at turning elementary school into charterJamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Tanque Verde Unified School District is considering the possibility of changing one of its elementary school into a charter school.

If it does, not much would change at Tanque Verde Elementary School. The curriculum, programs and teachers would stay the same.

The one big change would be financial. Tanque Verde officials say the district would receive more money per student for a charter school than for its traditional schools.

The district has not decided when to file the required paperwork, but the school would likely reopen as a charter no later than the 2014-15 school year, if the Governing Board approves the change.

Superintendent Doug Price said the increased funding would provide a better opportunity for the school to maintain its status as a highly-performing school in a small district.

Tanque Verde Elementary received a "B" rating from the Arizona Department of Education.

There were about 1,900 students enrolled in the district this school year.

"We're just looking at a charter in the school district as a result of the market we're in," Price said. "We're trying to leverage an incentive that the Legislature and the law has provided."

According to officials, the district receives $3,473 per student in base support level money for its traditional public schools.

That would increase to $4,954 per student at Tanque Verde Elementary if the school was changed to a charter because charter schools receive money for additional assistance from the state.

However, most traditional public schools receive more money per student overall than charters because of property tax overrides, bond elections and money allocated for textbooks, school buses and other equipment, according to a state Department of Education spokeswoman.

Tanque Verde receives sudden-growth money from the state for new students who are not included in the district's budget at the beginning of each school year, Price said.

The district doesn't expect to receive any of the money beyond next school year, when officials anticipate the district reaching its capacity of about 2,100 students.

Tanque Verde, like other districts, has also been hurt by state budget cuts in recent years.

The district would not be the only one in the Tucson area to operate a charter school.

The Vail School District operates four charter schools. And Tucson Unified School District plans to reopen two of its schools as charters.

Vail Superintendent Calvin Baker said the district opened its charter schools to give parents more choices and promote a "market-driven education."

"In other words, parents would choose the best school, not just the school that happens to be down the street," Baker said.

Some of Vail's charter schools are unusual because they offer smaller classes and specialized instruction.

For example, Civano Elementary School is known for teaching its students how to be environmentally aware.

If Tanque Verde opened a charter school, it would make charters look better because the district is highly rated, he said.

"Tanque Verde schools do well. It's a well-run district," he said.

On StarNet: Find education-related resources and special reports at azstarnet.com/education

"In other words, parents would choose the best school, not just the school that happens to be down the street."

Calvin Baker, Vail superintendent

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at jyounger@azstarnet.com or 573-4115. On Twitter: @JamarYounger

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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