If Guam had unlimited funding and could keep all its schools open, public and charter, then there would not be a request to close charter schools. However, the enrollment numbers of public schools have not significantly dwindled because of the opening of charter schools. There are more schools that are open and more students attending school. Some parents prefer charter schools because they want options for their children, and this is a good thing. What is not a good thing is the lack of funds to continue business as usual. Charter schools are a publicly funded school run by a private business. Here are some issues that make charter schools less than ideal for Guam:
• The legislative act to form charter schools came without a financial commitment. The enrollment for GDOE did not drop significantly with students enrolling in the charter schools. Charter schools operate with money from the General Fund, but the Legislature did not increase taxes or make cuts to government operations to accommodate the new options for students. Soon, four charter schools will rent four new properties without a new source of revenue, a cut to current government operations, or a plan to collect on back taxes. The Government is funding its charter schools at a loss, and the Government cannot continue its deficit spending. Thanks to Trump’s Tax Plan, people will have more money in their wallets; however, the local Governments face a new reality of cutting services or increasing its local taxes.
• There are no financial oversight. Let the procurement laws apply to charter schools as well. If the procurement laws are too cumbersome to follow, simplify the law. All institutions that receive taxpayer money need a high standard of accountability.
• Require certified teachers and the rest of the 14 points on the Every Child is Entitled to an Adequate Public Education Act. Guam laws require certification for barbers, cosmetologists, lawyers and a few other occupations when they practice their craft. Teachers, at least for publically funded schools like charter schools, ought to maintain that same standard of certification.
The superintendent is looking at ways to cut GDOE’s expenses of about $19 million this year and might have to cut even further for next year. Charter schools are cutting about $700,000 from their budget as well for this year. GDOE is under a hiring freeze and evaluating its options. Funding is at a critical level, and Guam will be in a crisis if the situation is not resolved soon. Meeting the needs of our future generations in schools require that the community properly fund their education. The island has operated for many years without charter schools. The question then becomes of whether we prioritize all of our students or just a few. Yet again, the Guam Legislature has to make the choice of cut it or fund it.