When charter school closes, city district gets slight financial benefit

Mar 31, 2014

Another Buffalo charter school will be closing at the end of the school year.  Community Charter School will closed at the end of June. Last year Pinnacle Charter School shut down, but was reopened last fall under the Buffalo Public School District as School 115. As part of our Focus on Education reporting, WBFO'S senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the city district benefits from these charter shut downs.

Inside the hallway at Community Charter School in Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

"We have skin in the game when it comes to the way the state handles the closers, but we really don't have any impact on it," said Barbara Smith, chief financial and operating for the Buffalo Public School District's.

Smith explains what happens when a charter school is closed.  Smith tells WBFO News closing of Community Charter would mean the school ultimately comes back to the district.  Smith said when a charter closes it helps save the district a little bit of cash.

"It helps us.  We certainly save.  We can operate those and have those students come back to us for much less  than what we pay in the tuition. We saw that when Pinnacle closed.  We saved $6.8 million in tuition and we were basically able to take over that school for half the cost," said Smith.

Community Charter School  lost its fight to remain open when late last week a Supreme Court Justice dismissed a lawsuit filed by the school again the State Education Department. Last year the school was granted a temporary restraining order to remain open after the State Board of Regents said it would not renew the school's charter. It had cited a drop in academic performance and poor test scores. 

Community Charter School leader Denise Luka is worried about a potential pattern of eliminating some charters.

Community Charter School leader Denise Luka.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

WBFO News asked Luka if she fears a trend.

"To consider what you are saying, that there seems to be somewhat of a trend to eliminate in Western New York charter schools -- what happened to Pinnacle, a similar situation with us -- I collaborate with all the other charter schools leaders and we have these conversation, but I don't know. I'm not really into finger pointing right now because it's kind of a moot point. It's already over," said Luka.

More than 300-families from Community Charter are now scrambling to find a new school.