Newburgh school gets 7 On Your Side for back pay

It's a classic underdog story: a charter school upstate which has taken 50 drop outs and helped mold nearly half of them into honor roll students. But again the small school is waiting months for funding from the state. So 7 On Your Side went to the school a second time and helped change the system entirely.

Stephanie Gage, an English teacher at the school is disheartened to not get paid.

"It's really devastating going through it again," she continued "I'll have to pull from my savings."

Gage has done it before - earlier this year she and her fellow faculty members kept working for 2 months with no pay.

Newburgh Prep, the upstart charter school situated above a post office has turned students' lives around, said the CEO of Newburgh Prep, Tom Fitzgerald.

"All of the students here have dropped out of high school."

"These students were actually on the street a year ago, getting into trouble. Now they're sitting in a class room all day and they're actually working," he said.

Ross Gilmore, head of finance at the school agreed.

"We're doing something good here - unfortunately we're not being supported."

Gilmore is referring to the state department of education that's months behind with their funding. He said the state process is "totally unable to function."

Back in February, 7 On Your Side cut through the red tape getting the school $140,000 to make their payroll.

But now, it's been months and the school still hasn't received a dime.

We called the Department of Education. First it blamed the hold up on the school's incorrect application.

But the school says the D-O-E's own funding procedures were wrong. Initially the school had to wait four months for funding. But after shining a light on the 120 day process, it was corrected. Now Albany says it will take half that time, just 2 months to apply and receive funds.

They've gotten their funding on time this week for the first time since the school began, a total of $150,000.

Part of that 150K is the teacher's back pay, which makes Gage "tremendously happy."

In response, the State Education Department made the following statement through its spokesman Tom Dunn:

"We strongly disagree with virtually all of Mr. Gilmore's characterizations of the unprecedented technical assistance meeting the Department conducted for the benefit of Newburgh Prep Charter School. The situation at Newburgh Prep has made it clear that some charter schools are still developing the internal capacity to manage the complex State Aid system and processes, which is part of the responsibilities that charter schools take on when they apply for, and accept, a charter that gives them a great deal of autonomy and responsibility for their management and operational decisions. Newburgh Prep was informed, several times prior to opening, that the process for billing school districts for charter school tuition payments was complex and that if, as everyone anticipated, there would be need to file intercept requests in order to receive payments, an already complex process would become even more complex and that payments might not be received by the School on a schedule that matched their fiscal obligations. This process can be further delayed when charter schools do not file complete or correct information with their intercept requests, which has been a consistent problem for this school. The schedule for billing school districts for charter school tuition payments and for filing intercepts, if all or part of those bills are not paid by the districts, is in law and regulation and has not changed. The Department will continue to provide assistance and guidance to Newburgh Prep on behalf of the students the School serves and to support the mission and vision of the School."

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