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ANALYSIS By Frank Parlato Jr.

This is one you ought to attend.

A public hearing will be held on Tuesday, May 3, at 6:30 p.m. at the Niagara Falls Board of Education Auditorium at 630 66th Street. The topic will be a proposed and costly charter school, in this case, one with a fancy name, College and Career Girls Prep Charter School.

The hearing should be of interest to every taxpayer and particularly everyone who has children in Niagara Falls public schools.

The dirty little secret about charter schools is that they cost taxpayers money. Charter schools are not like private schools, which fund themselves. It is the worst of both worlds: a selective school run by private interests and funded by taxpayers.

More than 68 percent of children attending school in Niagara Falls live in households below the poverty level. The school district has to go above and beyond what ordinary districts do simply to get kids in school and get them to achieve.

There are already about 350 kids living in this district going to an existing charter school, the Niagara Charter. Now there may be another one coming. It's going to cost us.

The school district receives a per-pupil allotment from the state of about $11,000 per student. If a child from this district goes to a charter school, then that state allotment follows the child. Our school board members, who are elected by the community to represent their views, have no say in how taxpayer monies are spent in a charter school, whether one child attends or 400 children attend.

Because of economies of scale, the school district doesn't save $11,000 per student. If you take one kid from one class and one kid from another class, the school district still has to keep the classes open. They can't close a building or fire a teacher. Plus, the district still has to provide services such as speech therapy, special education, psychological services and health services to all students.

The fundamental flaw in charter schools is that they put pressure on a school district to raise taxes to cover the shortfalls or close programs. It isn't quite fair to take the full allotment per student away from the district and yet demand the district provide the full range of services for every student.

Get educated on this matter. Attend the public hearing.

You can be sure that the people behind the charter schools, who intend to reap big profits with our tax dollars, will be at the meeting voicing their profit-driven agenda, disguised as milk and honey for the students at no cost to the taxpayers.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com April 26, 2011