Budget cuts at eStem charter | Arkansas Blog

Budget cuts at eStem charter

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The Democrat-Gazette, prompted by a school board meeting on the subject, got deeply today into something we'd touched on in our paper previously -- the expensive management superstructure of the eStem charter school. We'd earlier reported the departure of a PR spokesman, Joe Mittiga, from the administration and some other cuts in administrative spending.

The D-G was unable to give precise pay and budget numbers because eStem didn't/wouldn't/couldn't provide them on Tuesday. Imagine the editorial response if the Little Rock School District had been so remiss in providing data to a D-G reporter. (Yes, I can imagine such shortcomings at the LRSD, which has well-documented bloated administrative costs of its own to deal with.)

The eStem board is taking action. An administrative budget for the three charter schools that was $846,000 in 2008-09 seemingly may drop as low as $287,000 (partially funded by the D-G publisher).

This need not be personal about eStem, which has proved a powerful draw to students and which has performed reasonably well, though the elementary school is on academic "alert" status.

Charter schools are, in practice, independent school districts. They duplicate administrative costs that were said to be reduced by increasing the size of Arkansas school districts. If the result is better student performance, it might be a cost worth paying. But a $200,000-a-year manager is a big ticket item in this smaller setting. Make that not much more than $100,000 if a proposed cut in school leader Roy Brooks' pay is adopted by the school board.

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