The Seattle Times editorial board persuasively makes the case for equitable funding for charter public schools.
Washington’s public charter schools receive state funding for basic education, just as traditional public schools do — money follows each student. But they are not allowed to augment those budgets through enrichment levies or bonds. The net result is a systematic underinvestment in these public schools specifically intended to support young learners from underserved communities. The Washington State Charter Schools Association estimates the funding disparity amounts to between $1,000 and $3,000 per student, depending on the school district.
Sen. Mark Mullet of Issaquah and Rep. Eric Pettigrew of Renton, both Democrats, sponsored bills to address this inequity, but neither has advanced out of committee. Lawmakers should not allow charter-school students again to suffer from the hostility and political sway of the teachers union, which previously sued to stop them, and some traditional school district leaders.
Previously, we wrote that the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools found Washington’s charter school law is the third strongest in the nation. (The ST editorial also cites the ranking.) The NAPCS also pointed to areas of improvement:
Potential areas for improvement include lifting the state’s cap, ensuring equitable funding, and strengthening accountability for full-time virtual charter schools. (Emphasis added)
As the editorial states,
The state provides local effort assistance — also called levy equalization — of up to $1,500 per pupil to property-poor school districts that would have difficulty raising revenues through local levies. SB 6550 and HB 2788 seek to provide charters with similar funding to mirror the previous year’s enrichment levy of their surrounding school district, but no more than $1,500 per student. Just as with other state funding for charters, the grants would be paid with lottery revenues from the Opportunity Pathways Account, not the general fund.
The editorial reminds readers and lawmakers, that charter schools
…do not siphon resources from public schools. They are public schools — providing an important alternate educational model at no charge to Washington youth.
Equitable funding: Fair enough.