Charter School Students Are Public School Students
Imagine two teenage siblings with jobs—a rarity these days. Their parents require them both to pay for their own transportation with their earnings. One only has to pay for gas and the occasional oil change. The rest of their paycheck can be spent on other things. The other has to cover a car payment, gas, tires, car insurance, and any other expense related to keeping their car moving down the road. You can debate if this is good parenting, but clearly one teen will have to stretch their paycheck a lot further. And it doesn’t seem quite fair.
That is essentially how funding for charter school students differs from funding for other public school students. Public school districts can fund buildings, buses, maintenance, and other long-term costs by issuing bonds. Capital projects are funded with dollars outside of the stream of revenue that is received from federal, state, and local sources each year to educate students. Charter schools, however, have to fund everything—buildings, new roofs, HVAC systems, buses, gyms, libraries—using the same annual funding that traditional public schools can dedicate to the classroom. It’s very difficult.
Finally, some Missouri charter schools will have access to state funds for capital improvements. The recently passed education budget bill, House Bill 2, includes $5 million from the General Revenue Fund “for deferred maintenance grants for charter school facilities, provided that the charter school has been operating, with students enrolled, for at least ten years, further provided the charter school maintains twenty percent (20 percent) reserves, further provided that the charter school not be a part of a for-profit charter management organization’s network, and further provided the charter school owns or is purchasing the building or is occupying a building owned by the local school district.”
It’s not a ton of money, considering that there are more than 70 charter schools in the state, but it’s a start. It’s good to see the Missouri Legislature begin to chip away at the systems that work against families and their educational needs.