Durham Public Schools-watchers have been wondering what's going on with a series of lawsuits against the district from five local charter schools over the level of funding passed along from school districts to their publicly-funded, state-chartered competitors.
As an Associated Press article noted over a year ago:
The state Supreme Court this month refused to review an appeals court ruling that said the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system undercounted how much it owed charter schools. School districts with charter schools are supposed to pass along a per student share of local education money to the independent public schools.
"The money that is going to be taken from them should have gone to the charter schools in the first place," said Richard Vinroot, the lawyer who represented five charter schools that successfully sued the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system. The former Charlotte mayor and Republican candidate for governor sits on the board of a charter school, The News Observer of Raleigh reported.
Vinroot said other charter schools in the state could ask for three years' worth of money from public schools.
Well, Vinroot's lawsuit precedent has taken away some more public schools dollars -- this time bound for three Durham charter schools, whose lawsuits against DPS over the matter were detailed in a fall 2010 story by the Herald-Sun's Matt Milliken.
A public records request by Bull City Rising education correspondent Sharon McCloskey has unearthed the settlement documents between the district and the Carter Community School, Central Park School for Children and Maureen Joy Charter School. (Download the PDF: Download R0615873)
The school district agreed in November to settle with the three charters for $590,000, about half of what the three schools asked for (per the H-S) in their lawsuit -- but more than five times DPS' initial claim of funds owed to the schools.
- $212,400 to the Central Park School for Children
- $224,200 to the Maureen Joy Charter School
- $153,400 to the Carter Community Charter School
The executed settlement documents note that the payments release DPS from any and all liability to the charters for monies dating to or before July 2010, and stressing the settlelment "does not constitute an agreement about or recognition of any particular methodology, schedule, or formula through which the [School] Board or any other entity must or should calculate sums owed to the Charter Schools or any other charter school at any time -- present, past or future," and that the settlement figure "has no bearing upon anything beyond this particular case.'
No surprise to see that language in this settlement.
Keep in mind that Healthy Start Academy and Kestrel Heights still have a lawsuit outstanding, according to attorney Deborah Stagner with local education law firm Tharrington Smith.
Those two schools were offered about $176,000 in the district's voluntary offer of funds owed to the charters. The settlement's warning about precedent aside, a settlement offered to HSA and Kestrel Heights on similar terms could stretch to nearly another $1 million -- assuming, of course, that the lawsuit doesn't come to conclusion that's even less favorable to Durham Public Schools.
Speaking of folks making money off the suit -- presumably that applies to Vinroot, too; the Herald-Sun noted in their fall story he was representing the three Durham charter schools that settled.