School Board's Fisher defends position

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Some of the state politicians who have spoken out against the actions of the Steamboat Springs Board of Education don't understand the issues behind the School Board's decision, board president Paul Fisher said Friday.

Gov. Bill Owens and State Treasurer Mike Coffman on Thursday joined the growing number of state politicians and legislators who have chastised the school district for its refusal to follow a State Board of Education order to approve a Steamboat Springs Montessori charter school application.

Owens, though he rejected on legal grounds Coffman's proposal to divert state funds from the school district directly to the Montessori charter school, said he supported the lawsuit filed earlier this week by Steamboat Springs Montessori.

"We understand his tremendous support of charter schools, quite frankly," Fisher said of Owens' stance. "But we come back to our issues that we think the lead and vocal politicians don't understand. Politicians don't realize there's a cost for (school) choice."

The School Board's primary argument in its refusal to approve the charter application is the financial impact a Montessori charter school will have on district students. Charter schools, which are publicly funded like all other state public schools, receive only the per-pupil dollar amount assigned the school district for each student who attends the school. Those dollars, however, add up to a significant long-term financial loss for the 1,900-student district, the School Board contends.

"Is it right to divert money and add added costs to our district for (school) choice when we could be using those funds to improve our already excellent education system for all students? Do you get enough value for that added cost? We're arguing the community will not get the added value by siphoning off money from the other kids," Fisher said.

"We're not trying to raise the ire of legislators or the State Board," he added.

Fisher said the School Board might release a statement regarding its position next week following a special meeting scheduled for Monday afternoon.

"We may release a statement about our position," Fisher said. "All the politicians seem to be expressing theirs without acknowledging ours."

Fisher said he supported the Colorado Charter Schools Act and the reform for which it was the catalyst but said the way the law has been implemented is flawed.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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