Charter schools to state DOE: 'Stop withholding dollars' - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Charter schools to state DOE: 'Stop withholding dollars'

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

This school year, some 3,200 Valley-area charter school teachers haven't been paid what they should have. So said a Maricopa Co. superior judge this week.

"The judge decided in favor of the charter teachers and students," said Eileen Sigmund, president and CEO of the Arizona Charter School Association. She says the ruling means the state's Department of Education should make things right.

"Are they going to stop withholding the dollars?" she asked.

Back in July of last year, the DOE informed the Valley's 200 charter schools $5.89 million would be withheld from charter teachers. The department realized an error it made in how teacher pay-for-performance was being distributed and that, at the expense of teachers, fixing that error would be retroactive.

DOE officials claimed it had overpaid so-called "Classroom Site Funds," funds that are voter approved to pay teachers for increasing student performance. Monday, the judge disagreed.

"This is the question: Is there an overpayment? And he [the judge] resolves it with, "No, there was not an overpayment," Sigmund explained.

Charter schools, like the Phoenix Collegiate Academy in south Phoenix, were told they were overpayed by $56,000. The state wanted its money back.

"The payments would be taken out in sort of equal amounts over the school year," said Rachel Yanof, founder and CEO of PCA.

Yanof says her teachers are innocent victims.

"[To fill in the lost salary]...We decided that we would fund raise additional funds, through local philanthropy, through individual donors, because this wasn't anyone on our staff's fault," Yanof said.

The state's Department of Education declined to comment on Monday's ruling, but said in a statement the DOE is "reviewing whether to appeal."

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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