Charter School Coming To Somerville

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The job of educating children usually falls on the shoulders of the local school districts.

However, Victor Chatman, the president and CEO of the Harvest Preparatory Academy Charter School of Houston, says parents should have a choice where their kids learn.

"Many times, you see the teaching environment is not quite set up for individual student," Chatman said.

That is why in January, he filed an application with the State Board of Education to open the EnSpire Learning Academy in Somerville for grade levels K-through-5. If approved, the school would be eligible for state funding that is already allocated.

While the proposed school site is just an empty field right now, officials with the Somerville school district are full of concerns. Charles Caramillo is the superintendent of Somerville Independent School District, and he says the charter school would do more harm than good.

"A charter school in Somerville would have an adverse impact on our school district, and we submitted the application saying so," Camarillo said.

Under Texas Education Agency guidelines, Chatman had to inform surrounding school districts of his intent to open charter school. Brenham, Caldwell, College Station, Bryan, Snook and Somerville school districts were notified and asked to conduct and return an impact study.

Four of the six school districts said the proposed school would not affect them. Snook and Somerville ISDs were the only two districts that returned an impact study specifying how the charter school would hurt their districts' student enrollment, staff numbers and finances.

"For every child that goes to that school, they get their allotment from the state," Camarillo said.

Camarillo says the state provides over $4,000 for every 200 elementary student in the Somerville school district. Students who enrolled at the charter would take state money away from the Somerville ISD.

Not only that, the district would lose local funding for every student it lost. Money from local resources use funded by local resources to educate elementary students enrolled in the local school district would decrease with each child that was no longer enrolled in the local school district.

In addition, Camarillo says student academics are also a concern.

"We have no way to predict how prepared they're going to be when they come to our schools in the sixth grade," Camarillo said.

He says students returning to the school district would have to re-enter the public school system whether they met the state's standard or not, and that could be a disadvantage to the student and the district as a whole.

Somerville and Snook ISDs have made their concerns known to TEA, but it will be up to the State Board of Education to weigh those concerns and determine if the EnSpire Learning Academy receives approval.