Below is an article by Kevin Ryan that challenges the district's "official rationale of ... finances" that Ron Kristof refers to in his candid article calling the closure of Doyle Park "morally reprehensible." The Press Democrat did not accept this submission but it should be disseminated widely as it reveals the distortions in the financial "bottom line" narrative the district and Board used to justify what Kristof rightly identifies as a "political decision." If we peel away the misleading numbers about finances and so-called school achievement that were used to destroy the Doyle Park Elementary school community, we must confront the unapologetic embrace of segregation that covers itself with the fig leaf of "choice."
After the article you will find the statement that Kevin Ryan read to the Board this past Wednesday, 3/28; it contains bullet points that our Santa Rosa community should expect the Board to either refute or concede.
Flip This School
In the early hours of March 15th the Santa Rosa Board of Education voted 4 to 2 to close Doyle Park Elementary School and give the site to the Santa Rosa French-American Charter School (SRFACS), which plans to offer a French language immersion program for kindergarten through 6th grade. The vote will in effect displace the current Doyle Park students, who are mostly Latino and poor, with a whiter, more affluent student body drawn mainly from other school districts.
The Board members who pushed this action through freely admitted that it had little to do with education, community or justice. It was simply a financial decision, they said. To their profound discredit, they argued this point as if it were sheer common sense that finance would override all other considerations in these hard times.
The Board claims that this was a well-considered and sound financial decision. It is neither. They argue that their action will save money and even increase revenue to the district. Sadly it will not. A thorough review of the Board’s documents on the matter reveal that their self-proclaimed “tough but responsible” decision is actually a high-risk gamble. It is bad enough that the bet is made with money they don’t have. But what is unforgivable is that the wager is also built on the anguish and tears of Doyle Park students who will never benefit even if the long shot comes in.
The Board members pointed to the severe budget cuts to Santa Rosa schools and the fact that Doyle Park lost $180,000 in 2010-2011 due to low enrollment. No one is disputing these facts. But closing Doyle Park Elementary and opening the new SRFACS does not save money; it costs money.
SRFACS begins in the hole with an immediate expenditure of $52,461 for a half-year salary and benefits for a new principal. The Board also projects an $84,351 loss in the school’s first year. The loss is grossly underestimated because it is based on inflated enrollment projections. Incredibly, the Board assumes that more than 91% of those who signed a non-binding form expressing intent to attend SRFACS will actually enroll their children there. The count includes signatures from parents as far away as France, Oregon, Menlo Park and San Francisco! If actual enrollment slips a mere 3% - just 8 students- below the district’s enrollment projection for the SRFACS’s first year, it will lose more money ($126,000) than Doyle Park would have lost ($123,000) if it were allowed to remain open.
What justifies this bet? The Board boldly asserts that SRFACS will turn a profit after just one year! As most businesspeople know, it is rare for a startup to turn a profit in one year. Based on pumped up enrollment projection for 2012-2013, the district simply claims that enrollment will increase by 20% in 2013-2014. The rosy scenario rolls on with steady profits in subsequent years.
The Board’s analysis of the financial future of SRFACS is an exercise in wishful thinking. It has all of the misplaced optimism of the reality TV show “Flip This House" that was popular during the real estate bubble. This time, the Board is playing “Flip This School” with already tragic harm to the current Doyle Park students and future damage to the taxpayer and our beloved public schools.
How could Doyle Park Elementary have become a financially viable school? If the Board had allowed it to remain open next year, it would have needed about 25 new students to close the gap. One way to get there would have been a Spanish immersion program for kindergarten and 1st grade.
But some Board members were too busy dreaming of profits from a new French charter school to allow that to happen.
Kevin Ryan is an IT professional and serial entrepreneur who has lived in Santa Rosa for over 20 years.
My name is Kevin Ryan.
I was here at 1:15 in the morning on March 15th when Board member Haenel, Carle, Wakefield and Jeye voted to close Doyle Park Elementary and give the site to the French American Charter School. I thought the decision was profoundly unfair because it will, in effect, displace the current Doyle Park students, who are mostly Latino and poor, with a whiter, more affluent student body drawn mainly form outside the district.
They said that the overriding issue compelling them to close Doyle was financial. They claimed that the decision was well considered and sound. I decided to carefully review the Board’s financial analysis to see if this is true. Sadly it is not.
Here’s what I found:
- The vote to open the French charter school was a vote to immediately spend some $52,000 for a half year’s salary for a new administrator for the school. Spend $52,000 when the district is broke.
- With a projected enrollment of 260 students, the charter school loses some $84,000 in its 1st year. This loss is a gross underestimate because to get to an enrollment of 260, the Board assumes that an astounding 91% of all petitioners will actually send their children to the French school.
- If actual enrollment slips by only 3%, or 8 students, the French charter school loses more money ($126,000) next year than Doyle Park ($123,000) would have lost, had it been allowed to stay open.
- What justifies this bet on the charter school? The Board assumes that the French school will turn a profit in one year. Most businesspeople will tell you don’t bet on making a profit in only one year.
- How do they turn a profit? The Board’s analysis asserts that the enrollment will increase by 20% in the 2nd year. The estimate is simply pulled from thin air.
The Board’s analysis is an exercise in wishful thinking. It is not a careful financial plan. It’s a speculative bet. People used to flip houses during the real estate bubble. Now with charter school mania, the Board is playing “Flip this School” with tragic harm to the current Doyle students and future damage to the taxpayer. It is bad enough that the Board is gambling with money they don’t have. What is unforgivable is that bet is at the expense of Doyle students who will never benefit, even if the long shot comes in.
Could Doyle have been saved? If the Board had allowed it to remain open next year, it would have needed an additional 25 students to close the financial gap. One way to get there could have been a Spanish language immersion program for kindergarten and 1st grade.
But some Board members were too busy playing “Flip this School” and dreaming of the profits to allow that to happen.