Letters: Only tax revenue matters, St. Paul City Council? What about the educational value of charter schools?

17September 2020

Regarding Frederick Melo’s report “Council debates timeout on bond requests” (Sept. 13): The subject of the St. Paul City Council debate is “conduit revenue bonds.” These are a type of borrowing where the borrower, not the city, pays back the bondholders. The city undertakes no risk or cost from issuing the bond. In fact, it receives bond administration fees for facilitating the financing.

So what is the problem?

It’s a problem when the borrower is a charter school.

Not a problem if it is a hospital or clinic, which also can request these bonds.

But a charter school bond request causes anxiety.

Charter school enrollment has quadrupled between 2001 and 2020 while public school enrollment has dropped by one fifth from its 2001 enrollment. Apparently more families, and diverse families, are choosing charter schools to educate their children. Our City Council is worried that the expanding role of charter schools is causing a financial issue in St. Paul. These schools are tax exempt so their property does not bring in tax revenue for the city.

The city, along with the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, would like a moratorium on new charter schools and charter school expansions.

They must think we already have too many.

Then why is their enrollment increasing?

Nonetheless the City Council is sure that the cost is too much whatever it is. Notably, they do not report a discussion of the educational value of these schools.  The enrollment numbers argue that families, and more ethnically diverse families, are finding charter schools a better fit for their students than the traditional public schools.

Parents see their students making educational progress, while the City Council sees tax revenue gained or lost.

The Council would like Planning and Economic Development to review the cost of charter schools. This seems unlikely to deliver a just assessment, if educational value is not taken into account. And it looks like an injustice to the children who benefit or could benefit from charter schools more than from traditional public schools.

All of this looks to me less like a money issue than like an attempt to discourage charter schools, without having to say why they need to be discouraged. So I ask, why is our City Council willing to go along with this?

Harriet Goodpaster, St. Paul

Old news

Luckily for the writers and editors at the Pioneer Press a vaccine will soon push the Covid virus into the history books. The angles and stories you can put on the front page have run out months ago yet we see a new story another angle every week.

I look forward to the day when regular mayhem will be the lead stories, with crises like ‘underfunded’ schools, and ‘unrest’ in the streets of the city.

Jim Steiner, Vadnais Heights


Incidental bucks

This COVID mess has been very profitable for Target while little retail guys suffer, but rich executives could throw some chump change at U of M men’s sports.

Four teams will disappear because of a $7 million dollar shortfall. These athletes have trained endlessly for these final years and some incidental Target bucks would change things dramatically for students and coaches.

Jon Swenson, Eagan

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