By Denice Burchett, Phelan resident
The American Rescue Plan Act recently signed into law is welcome news for many families and businesses that are struggling to make ends meet. It is also welcome news to parents and students throughout the state as it infuses $26 billion into state coffers. According to the state Department of Finance, California’s K-12 schools could receive nearly $16 billion from the federal package. This infusion of state revenue, on top of an existing state surplus, means Governor Newsom and the Legislature have ample funding to ensure that all public schools students are funded equally.
Unfortunately, this school year non-classroom based public charter schools did not receive growth enrollment funding. This means many students who wanted to move to Personalized Learning public charter schools were not able to. Many were stuck on a waitlist or if schools were able to enroll them they had to serve more students with less money.
Not only did we not receive per-pupil funding for additional enrolled students, as all other public schools did, our schools were excluded from state facility subsidy programs, most federal learning loss funds, and pandemic related school site reopening funds.
The truth is that individualizing learning for each student is more costly than a one-size-fits-all model that uses the same textbook, pacing, environment, and education delivery for every student. Despite many misconceptions, most Personalized Learning public charter schools operate physical school facilities where they provide in-person learning as well as meals for enrolled students.
In fact, at Gorman Learning Charter Network many of our 2,730 students come to our three resource centers several days a week to fulfill their learning assignments under the direct supervision of a credentialed teacher. Instead of using traditional classroom-based seat time to account for student attendance, we base attendance on engagement in and completion of teacher assigned state-aligned curriculum.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, our academic support services were expedited and prioritized for our homeless, foster youth, and low income students so that they had access to technology, devices, and internet hotspots. We also worked to ensure that the needs of our English Learner students and those with disabilities were met. This included holding additional trainings for our teachers and staff, providing resources to support students’ social-emotional well-being, and ensuring that wraparound services were accessible for our students and families.
Despite our lower level of state funding, we work each day to ensure that students’ needs are met, particularly our students with disabilities and our at-risk population. This means emphasizing a student-driven approach to education and supporting students who have been hit hardest by the pandemic.
The pandemic has shown us there is immense need to tailor education so that families feel supported and all students succeed. Taking an individualized approach – rather than a system-based process – has never been more important. This is exactly what Gorman Learning Charter Network, and other Personalized Learning public charter schools, have been doing for years.
Like my fellow educators we are thrilled to see more funding being allocated for California’s K-12 schools. We are also hopeful that this infusion of money will mean that students who attend our public schools will be treated the same as their peers. Our commitment to our students has not wavered and we hope policymakers uphold the same commitment by ensuring that our students are allocated the funding they deserve.