Specter of enrollment shifts fouling up school finances

Cape charter schools cast wide net

853 students attended Sturgis, CCLCS in Fiscal 2012

by Walter Brooks

Cape Cod’s two charter schools cast a wide net last year, pulling students from as far away as Fairhaven and Hingham.  853 children attended Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School and Sturgis Charter Public School in the 2011-2012 school year.

Those students represent over $11 million in tuition paid to the charter schools by the kids’ home school districts, though some of that money is repaid to the school districts by the state as reported in The Observer’s June 17, 2011 article on “charter choice”.

Changing finances for CCLCS?

Click here or on the image above to see a larger version of the chart entitled Cape Cod Charter School FY12 Rates by Sending District (Q4).

Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School is a middle school which will be opening soon at its new facility in Harwich after many years in Orleans.  Last year CCLCS attracted students for as a far away as Bourne (3) and Sandwich (7).  The bulk of CCLCS’ enrollment came from the Nauset region (31.26%), Dennis-Yarmouth (24.46%) and Barnstable (19.33%).

With Lighthouse moving from Orleans to Harwich, one may expect to observe a greater enrollment from the mid-Cape area in future years.  This might impact the school’s finances, as a child from Nauset brings $15,174 to the school as opposed to students from DY who bring $11,421 or Barnstable who contribute only $9,971.

Provincetown and Truro are the “honey pot” for CCLS, with students from those districts bringing $25,161 and $19,621, respectively.

Sturgis grows, draws from off-Cape

Sturgis’ highest per student contribution come from Provincetown ($29,510) and Chatham ($20,003). Over at Sturgis enrollment is growing as the school builds out the student body for its new “Sturgis West” campus.  We also observe that Sturgis attracts a great number of students from off-Cape towns, including Carver (3 students), Fairhaven (2), Hingham (1), Freetown-Lakeville (1) and Silver Lake (6).

The highest percentage of Sturgis’ students comes from Sandwich (19.27%), Barnstable (18.44%) and Dennis-Yarmouth (16.25%).   For financial contributions, Sturgis’ highest per student contribution come from Provincetown ($29,510) and Chatham ($20,003).  The lowest funding Sturgis receives per student comes from the off-Cape districts, including rates such as $10,018 from Freetown-Lakeville and $10,480 from Silver Lake.

Funding-by-lottery

Sturgis attracts students with its atmosphere of academic rigor and the lure of the International Baccalaureate diploma program.  CCLCS is known for an intimate atmosphere and nurturing.Charter school enrollment is controlled by lottery, so school officials have no idea what kind of funding they’ll receive for a new class of students until the lottery is completed and the students are enrolled.  With Sturgis’ central location, the biggest threat to its funding is the attraction of more off-Cape students, who bring far lower funding rates than provided by on-Cape school districts.

If Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter indeed attracts more students from the mid-Cape area and has fewer Lower Cape kids entering the lottery, they could see a significant slippage in their funding over the next few years.  For example, a swing of 50 students from the Nauset Region to Dennis-Yarmouth would cost the school over $187,000 in annual funding.  The same swing of 50 from Nauset to Barnstable would cost the school over $260,000 a year.

Both Sturgis and CCLCS are opening new school buildings this year – along with the debt service for those buildings.  Sturgis attracts students with its atmosphere of academic rigor and the lure of the International Baccalaureate diploma program.  CCLCS is known for an intimate atmosphere and nurturing of individual students who might fall through the cracks in a larger school. 

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