Fair funding

In the wake of a Maryland court ruling requiring equal funding for charter schools, legislators are planning to change the law to preserve inequality, writes Robert Holland of the Heartland Institute in the Baltimore Sun.

A 2005 analysis found charters receive 21.7 percent less funding than other public schools in the same district.

Given that many charter schools serve low-income and minority kids in large cities, the disparities look even worse when broken down by cities.

Atlanta, for instance, shoveled $12,766 per pupil into its regular public schools but funded charter schools at $7,949 – a gap of almost 38 percent. Albany, N.Y., funded its regular public schools to the tune of $15,226 per pupil, but gave the charter schools 33 percent less than that.

Holland foresees constitutional challenges to underfunding. Why should some public students receive less than others?

About Joanne


  1. Just what is it that the charters aren’t getting? Don’t tell me about the money; heck, the DC school system gets plenty of money, but squanders it. I’m interested in the things that the money buys that aren’t getting to the teachers and the students. Do they not get books and desks. Are computers in short supply? Do they have to find their own way to school?
    What is it?

  2. Hunter McDaniel says:

    The first and most important thing that most charters are not getting is a building to operate in. Unlike the “regular” schools which have buildings provided through decades of bond issues, charters usually have to go find a building and pay for it out of operating funds. That’s why you tend to find charters located in warehouses, strip malls, or church basements and not in fancy campuses with football fields and swimming pools.

  3. Hunter,

    Where do you live?

    In the Bay Area, many charters schools that I am aware of are housed in local district buildings. The KIPP school Joanne wrote of was and is located in district buildings, but with ammenities (air conditioning) not available to all district students. DCP, the charter school featured in Joanne’s book, has a gorgeous facility — it’s old building was pretty swell, too. Look at the myriad charters in Oakland and San Francisco; their facilities are at least equivalent to, and in many cases surpass, public school buildings.

    Perhaps it’s different in other locales.

  4. San Jose’s KIPP school is located in what was an unused wing of a district middle school. When I visited, the facilities were barebones but adequate. The office is in a portable.

    Downtown College Prep, the school in my book, had horrible facilities for the first two years: Very crowded, few walls keeping sound out of teaching areas, no science labs, no computer center, no library, no space for sports, no air conditioning. In the second year, the school moved to a former fitness center that was much better but had no labs, few computers and not a blade of grass. In the fifth year, DCP converted a former elementary school campus provided by the district. It has no gym but otherwise is well equipped.

    By California law, districts must provide facilities or the money to pay for facilities for district students who attend a charter that’s equivalent to what the students would get if they attended a district-run school. In practice, this means the charter negotiates a deal with its home district for unused space or help in paying rent. Before the law passed, charters had to pay for facilities out of their operating budget.

  5. Both of my children have attended charter schools in Oklahoma City. Neither school provided transportation. The reason being finances. Prefer to use funds for other more important things. My daughter’s middle school is a former elementary school. My son’s High school, last year, had formerly been a jr. high, high school and later a middle school (originally built in 1924).

  6. What’s the problem? Hasn’t the pro-voucher/charter crowd claimed for years they could do it better and cheaper than the public schools?

  7. Joanne,

    I teach at the school where the aforementioned KIPP school was located. The in-room facilities are the equivalent of what every other district student received in terms of space, desks, whiteboards, and cleanliness. In addition, air conditioning was installed in all rooms, something no other student at the middle school had access to. The portable was built new, and also air conditioned.

    If these “barebones” accommodations, which are superior to what the general population receives, are a cause of concern, I would like to think there would be equal outcry for those non-chartered kids.

  8. I didn’t mean to suggest KIPP Heartwood has worse facilities than other San Jose schools. Barebones is the norm. I am surprised that Mathson isn’t air conditioned. None of the district schools have air conditioning?

    BTW, I’ve added the blog of an incoming Alum Rock second-grade Teach for America teacher, Miss Bennett in the Bay, to the blogroll. She’ll be at a low-performing school which is adding all sorts of high-tech gizmos paid for by Cisco. I’m curious if these make a difference for teachers or students.

  9. Mike in Texas,
    nice thought … but it’s not clear if you intent to miss the point on purpose.

    take a charter here in Bay Area: sponsoring district is funded at ~50% higher — now that’s perhaps even understandable since they’re a basic aid district vs a standard revenue limit. and hewing to the state floor means that the charter is a scalable model.

    but then the district seeks to charge an extra 3% of revenue for oversight plus seize another 4% just because. (for reference, this is 2-6 times what the state says is the legal upper limit) all with the same antagonistic “but but but I thought you were here to show us how to do more with less”.