ACEL Charter School students protest budget problems

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Students at ACEL Charter School gathered across the street from the school to protest budget cuts. (KFSN)

With chants of "save our school, save our school," about 40 students, or one third of the student body at ACEL Charter School, gathered across the street from the school to protest budget cuts.

Staff members were recently laid off and student Andrew Buck told Action News, "A lot of classes have been cut too, like the entrepreneurship program which our school is kind of based on -- The Academy for Civil and Entrepreneurial Leadership."

Art classes the school was noted for along with a popular music program has been stopped.

"The teacher was not being paid and so he just found another job somewhere else and left -- and they didn't plan on reinstating it. And then a bunch of other... staff members have been cut." Buck said.

School Principal Stephen Morris admits there have been problems. He said, "We have to we had a projected deficit of last year's deficit and this year's negative spending of almost half a million dollars."

To try and deal with the problems the school's board of directors made cuts last week. Theresa Davis is a former board member, former employee, and a parent of children attending the school. She said, "There were some budget cuts which eliminated all of the office staff and the security -- so there's no security at the school anymore."

One of the schools founders, John Minkler blamed poor accounting for the problems. "We discovered the financial company we relied on for our budget information was not giving us accurate financial information."

Buck says seniors at the school are worried things will fall apart before the end of the school year. He said, "So if anything was to happen and our school does shut down, we won't be able to transfer and graduate -- especially as seniors with only half a semester left in school."

But Principal Morris says the core classes needed for graduation will continue, and students will graduate. He's asking the students to understand. He explained, "It's one of those things where real life says you have to adjust where life throw's curve balls at you. So we're adjusting."

Charter schools are funded by taxpayers and overseen by their local school districts. A spokesman for Fresno Unified told Action News the ACEL Charter School is up for renewal in 2017. But the school is required to submit a financial statement every year and the statement from ACEL is due this week.

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