Florida charter school students receive $2,130 less in funding, on average, than students who attend traditional public schools, according to a new study from the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform.
Only Tennessee charter school students receive more funding than traditional district students. The gap ranges from $12,736 per student in Washington, D.C. to $365 in New Mexico. The study looked at the budget year ending in 2011 in 30 states and 48 major urban areas.
“These findings tell us conclusively that public charter schools tend to receive far less money, and that inequity from state-controlled funding is most clearly responsible for the gap in funding,” said Larry Maloney, the study’s lead researcher. “The research cannot explain, however, exactly why local governments provide students in public charter schools with so much less money for their education than they provide students in traditional public schools.”
Florida is a different story though because the state per-student funding is equal. One reason for the difference here is local taxes school districts collect for building maintenance and construction. Charter schools don’t receive a share of that money in most Florida school districts. Charter schools also typically receive a smaller share of federal funding.
School districts may also collect up to a 5 percent administrative fee from charter schools.
Lawmakers have been talking about changing the way charter school facilities are funded for years, but have yet to agree on a solution all sides consider fair.
Lawmakers have proposed requiring school districts to share local tax revenue equally — withholding state funding if they don’t. Traditional public school advocates have argued it’s unfair charter schools have received a larger share of Public Capital Outlay and Debt Service Fund in the state budget the past few years.
The findings echo previous studies of charter school funding. A 2012 Florida TaxWatch study concluded charter schools received about 70 cents for every dollar traditional district schools received. That study found charter schools receive about $3,500 less per student than district schools in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The gap was about $4,000 in Lee County, and about $3,000 in St. Lucie County.
A 2010 Ball State University report found Florida charter schools received about $2,700 less per student than traditional district schools. About $2,000 of that difference was local tax revenues and the rest of the difference was federal funding.