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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Clarifying some points about proposed charter school

As co-founders of the charter school, Aurora Waasakone Community of Learners, we wanted to clarify some information in the article “New School for Nary? New charter school eyes former school building” (Nov. 3). Joe Bowen did an excellent job explaining the plan we have for our school and we are happy to share this dream with the Bemidji community.

We would like to clarify some information about transportation and special education costs. We recognize and agree with the struggles pointed out regarding these issues that public schools face. Especially in rural areas, schools do not receive enough funding to meet all transportation and special education needs, and often have to cover the difference with general education revenue in order to meet the needs of the students. This is an issue that many of us could and should take up with our local and state legislators.

Since we would be a publicly funded charter school, ISD 31 would be responsible for transporting students to our school. This does not mean creating new routes both before and after school for students all across the district are attending our charter school. What it does mean is the district transporting students to their local elementary schools, transferring to Bemidji Middle School, which already serves as a “hub” for other charter and private schools, and getting on one or two buses that would then bring those students to the charter school location. While the state and federal revenue follows students to the public school they attend, the transportation revenue and transportation sparsity revenue goes directly to the district providing transportation services.

Special education funding also follows the student to the public school they attend. Based on the needs of the student identified in the student’s Individualized Education Plan, the school receives state and federal funding to provide services like special education teachers, paraprofessionals and equipment. While charter schools are eligible to bill the student’s resident school district for any special education costs that are not reimbursed, our goal is not to take funding away from ISD 31, but to provide what is best for the students we all serve.

Thank you for publishing the article about our school and sharing information about our upcoming meet and greet session. Hopefully this letter helps to clarify some of the financial concerns regarding transportation and special education.

Anna Wallin and Shanna Reiners