It Pays for Traditional Public Schools to “Start Up” as Charters
Another Oregon public school plans to become a charter. The ability to enroll students from other districts is an attraction, as it was for the last school I blogged about. But this time, the school also identifies funding as a reason to change its status.
A few years ago, no school would have expected better funding as a charter. Charters usually received less state funding per student than traditional public schools. Now, the federal government is giving out grants to start charter schools, and traditional public schools can receive these grants if they reorganize as charters.
Turning existing schools into charters isn’t the most appropriate use of startup money, which ideally should help people build schools from scratch. District schools that need to develop specialized curricula to become charters would also be worthy recipients, but this particular school in Oregon developed its specialized academic program before it sought charter status.
The startup grants encourage public schools to make nominal changes in exchange for infusions of cash; that’s a wasteful policy in the short term. However, it could bring positive results over several years. Public schools that become charters to take advantage of one-time grants will find themselves competing with the districts and with other charters. No one is assigned to a charter by residence, so charters don’t have their student bodies handed to them — they have to work for enrollment. The new charters could soon contribute to a more competitive education market, assuming they don’t find a way to switch back to regular public schools after they spend the startup money.