Montessori Charter School Case Study

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This Monday, the Madison School Board will vote on a contract that would turn the private Isthmus Montessori Academy into a charter school serving students in grades 4K-9. In January, the board approved the Isthmus Montessori Academy Charter School proposal, under the condition that the contract address a number of serious shortcomings including financial management, staffing and demographics. The contract fails to address these problems, raises new issues, and is not in the best interest of Madison students. The board should vote it down.

It is applaudable for a private school to want to serve all students, regardless of their financial situation. Unfortunately, the contract is not in line with this good intention and fails to ensure the
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But if Isthmus Montessori becomes a charter school, MMSD will be obligated to provide an education for all Isthmus Montessori students, including English language learners and students with disabilities. Yet, the staffing plan allocates about half as many special education teachers and assistants per student as elementary and middle schools across the district. While the elementary schools surrounding Isthmus Montessori have a large population of English language learners, this charter school would have 44 percent fewer bilingual resource teachers and specialists per student than those schools. In short, students at Isthmus Montessori would not have the support they need to succeed.

Even with inadequate staffing, the proposed budget does not work. Within five years of opening, the school anticipates a budget shortfall of half a million dollars, an ongoing deficit that will get worse over time. The school may attract Madison students who currently attend private schools, bringing more state aid into the district. However, this approach to balancing the Isthmus Montessori budget works against the vision of a diverse, inclusive school, and is far from

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