The Boston Herald provided a math lesson to charter critics in a recent editorial. One point not mentioned is that unlike district schools, charters must lease their facilities on the open market, an additional cost that can be a significant line item for schools located in cities, like Cambridge, where space is tight and rents are high and rising. We are sharing the Herald’s editorial in its entirety here:
Charter School Math (Boston Herald editorial, 2/17/14)
Massachusetts taxpayers send $75 million a year to local school districts in payments for not educating students — specifically, those students from their community who are enrolled in charter schools. And yet municipal officials complained last week that the reimbursements they collect for the phantom students — which continue for six years after a student leaves a district school — simply aren’t enough.
Gee, what else is new!
It is a nearly two decade old refrain. Municipal officials complain that charter schools — which are public schools — “drain” resources out of the district. And at a meeting of the Local Government Advisory Council last week, the State House News Service reported, officials from Lowell, Orleans and Salem told Patrick administration officials that educational programming suffers in their communities because charter school reimbursements aren’t keeping up.
School districts pay “tuition” to charter schools when a child from the district enrolls — in other words, funding for educating the student follows the student.
But Massachusetts cushions the impact of that loss of funds with reimbursements that continue for six years after the student leaves (it’s 100 percent of the per pupil expenditure in the first year, and 25 percent in each of the following five years).
The state budgeted $75 million in reimbursements for the current fiscal year, while Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed the same level of funding next year. Local officials on Tuesday lobbied for a $28 million increase, and said the “loss” of funds to charter school crowds out initiatives such as longer school days and English language learning supports.
Of course the state spends $5 billion a year in direct aid to cities and towns for K-12 education. That’s on top of the investment of local taxpayer dollars. If school districts have to rely on the 1 percent of the state’s K-12 education spending that covers the cost of students in charter public schools for the success or failure of their educational programming, we’re in deep trouble.
To note, CCSC is not part of a deep-pocketed charter management organization; we do not have “investors” who stand to profit from our work educating students. We do have a non-profit charitable foundation that solicits individual donations and grants to help defray some of extra costs of facilities and programs.