Charter schools come with hidden costs

By A.J. Ross - bio | email

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) –   On Monday the Horry County School Board gave conditional approval to an application presented by the Academy of Hope Charter School.

The board vote 9-3 in favor of the new school, but the school district's executive director of finance, John Gardner, warns the continual support of new charter schools will eventually lead to cuts in other programs.

The Horry County school district receives close to $6300 dollars per student each school year.  However when a parent elects to send their child to a charter school, Gardner says that money transfers along with the student and costs to the district still remain behind.

"People want to say well the student went away the money follows the student so your expenses go away," explained Horry County School Board Chairman Will Garland.  "And that's simply not the case."

Garland voted in favor of the Academy of Hope and says it is the best charter school application he has seen.

"Out of the four applications I've looked at since I've been on the board this was by far the strongest application," said Garland.

However with the school district already paying $2.4 million dollars this year to Bridgewater Academy and the Palmetto Academy of Learning and Success, district officials say they're worried these expenses will continue to grow.

"When you're looking at county wide programs, and charters have to be county wide programs, you're pulling students from every attendance area," explained Horry County Schools Spokeswoman Teal Britton.   "So while the money is going with the child to another location the base school they were at is not able to reduce expenditures and at some point we'll be setting ourselves up to take away opportunities from students that are in our existing schools."

If the Academy of Hope and Palmetto Academy for Learning Motorsports receive final approval from the county, the school district will pay an estimated $4.8 million dollars to charter schools next year.

District officials say to offset these costs they may have to cut programs like art, music, and athletics at other schools, and teacher jobs may also be on the line.

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