Equitable Funding For Charter Schools?
“Funds raised from our Fourth Annual Soiree will fund the gap between public dollars and the true cost of educating every SLLIS student,” reads the invitation for an upcoming fundraiser for the St. Louis Language Immersions Schools.
Because SLLIS is a charter school, it does not receive the same amount of public dollars as a traditional public school. In 2011, on average, Missouri charter schools received $3,800 less than traditional public schools.
“Missouri’s charter public schools are living up to their end of the bargain and demonstrating the ability to provide a high quality education. It’s time to move past ‘stepchild’ funding and ensure every public school in Missouri receives equitable funding,” Missouri Public Charter Schools Association Executive Director Doug Thaman wrote in the Missouri Times.
While some argue that charters are able to fill the gap in funding through fundraising, a recent report found that charitable donations do not eliminate the funding gap between charters and traditional public schools.
Buckets of Water into the Ocean: Non-Public Revenue in Public Charter and Traditional Public Schools found that revenue from nonpublic sources (non-public food service, investment revenue, philanthropic fundraising, etc.) totaled almost 6.4 billion for traditional public schools and nearly 400 million for charter schools in the 15 states included in the study.
Interestingly, the authors found that traditional public schools receive most of their non-public revenues from selling meals to their students and investment profits. Charter schools receive most of their non-public revenue through philanthropy. Still, charitable donations do not make up the difference—adding as little as $74 (New Jersey) and as high as $1320 (Hawaii) to total per pupil revenue.
The findings of this report may change the conversation in Missouri as revisions to the way schools are funded are considered. One of the authors of the study, Arkansas Professor Patrick Wolf said:
If students in public charter schools are to receive funding on a par with students in traditional, district-run, public schools, it will have to come from more equitable public school funding laws. Saying that charitable donations can make up the funding gap between district-run and charter schools is like saying that throwing buckets of water into the ocean will change the tide.