Are Local Charter Schools In Danger Of Closing?

Several charter schools in San Diego were created to fix the public school system, but many of them are failing.

By June, hundreds of San Diego students might have to find new schools to attend.

A charter school has the freedom to create its own rules and regulations, and school districts have minimal control over them.

However, that freedom comes with a price.

"The district schools have the support of the district offices … which means our board has to raise a minimum of $250,000 a year," said Cecil Steppe, chairman of the board at Gompers Charter Middle School in southeast San Diego.

Gompers is known nationally as a model charter school, but other charter schools in San Diego like Cortez Hill Academy and Memorial Academy of Technology are not so lucky.

Cortez Hill Academy and Memorial Academy of Technology will soon be closed and parents are dumbfounded over the decision.

"If they close over here we have to look for another school," said one Cortez Hill parent.

10News learned that Cortez Hill Academy's deficit ballooned from $16,000 to more than $187,000 in just one year alone.

Money problems are something charter schools have to overcome, experts said.

"I don't think they don't have a strong heart for it or desire for improvement for their kids, but if you can't raise the money it's financially almost impossible to live on ADA (Average Daily Attendance)," said Steppe.

Under the ADA, the state gives charter schools money for every student who goes to school.

Memorial Academy of Technology in Barrio Logan is also expected to close this year, and in a letter the school told the district "declining enrollment had a huge impact on their finances."

However, 10News contacted the principal of the Memorial Academy of Technology and she said it was not financial problems.

There are currently 37 charter schools in the San Diego Unified School District. According to the district, in 2004 and 2005, 12 new schools opened.

10News learned that six charter schools have closed in the last five years, and two more are about to shut down.

The reason, some believe, is money, and it is a task that has proven to be overwhelming for several San Diego charter schools.

Some say the charter schools are a waste of money because taxpayers end up footing the bill when their finances go awry. That's because the district sometimes ends up paying for services that the charter cannot pay for.

There are more than 14,000 charter students in the San Diego Unified School District.

The district said each charter school gets between $5,000 to $6,000 per student.