Despite repeated demands from advocates and some elected officials for “fair funding” of North Carolina charter schools, local spending in charter schools in fact exceeds that of traditional public schools, according to a new report from the NC Justice Center entitled “Fair Funding for Charter Schools: Mission Accomplished.”
“‘Fair funding’ is certainly a worthy goal,” said Kris Nordstrom, an analyst with the NC Justice Center’s Education & Law Project and author of the report. “Charter schools are public schools, and North Carolina’s students deserve equal funding whether they attend a public charter school or a ‘traditional’ public school operated by a local school district. Luckily, ‘fair funding’ already exists.”
During the 2016 legislative session charter advocates pushed for legislation that would have required school districts to provide charter schools with a greater share of their local funds. Current law already requires school districts to share per pupil local funding with charter schools. In advocating for House Bill 539 – which would have expanded the types of local funds the school district would have been required to share with charter schools – some charter advocacy groups pushed claims that the state’s public charter schools get less than 75 cents for every dollar given to traditional public schools.
Yet analysis of local spending patterns by the Education & Law Project proves that charter schools already receive more than their fair share of local funding and, indeed, that the claims of unfairness are false. In terms of per student expenditures for FY 14-15, traditional schools spent $2,135 from local funds, while charter schools spent $2,350 per student from local funds. In other words, local funds in charter schools exceed local funds in traditional schools by $215 per student, or by more than 10 percent.
Per student local funding provided to charter schools is based on the per student local funding from where the students in that charter school live, so inevitably there is variation in local spending from school-to-school. Yet even after adjusting for charter students’ district of residence, the report said, charters spent more local funds in FY 14-15 than traditional public schools. Additionally, the report found that if every student who lives in a given school district received the same local spending whether he or she attended a traditional public school or a charter, charter schools would have transferred just under $3 million to traditional public schools in FY 14-15.
“Charter schools already receive what most would describe as a fair share of local funding – there is no good reason for advocates to try and divert local funds from traditional public schools when charter schools already have access to more local funds,” Nordstrom said. “Efforts to improve funding for all of North Carolina’s public schools are more likely to yield additional funds for charter schools than are efforts pitting charters against traditional school districts.”
You can read the full report by clicking here.