Ohio’s new state budget, signed by Governor John Kasich June 30, makes a number of changes that affect K-12 education. In a series of posts, we’ll be analyzing those changes and what they mean. Today, we look at money for charter schools.
When state lawmakers put another $1.5 billion or so into public education in this state budget, charter schools benefitted alongside traditional public schools.
This fall, Ohio’s 370-some charter schools are projected to receive about a 4-percent increase in state funding, about the same as traditional public schools, according to Legislative Service Commission estimates.
Charter schools are funded largely based on how many students they enroll.
This post is part of StateImpact’s Edu-Budget 2013 series outlining what the 2013 biennial budget does to and for Ohio schools. Read other parts of this series here.
That’s a $13 per-student increase over the past school year. And that per-student funding figure will rise again in 2014-15.
Charter schools receive additional state money on top of that base amount if they enroll students from poorer districts or certain groups of students including students with disabilities and students from low-income families. Traditional public schools also get additional state funding for educating these students.
While the state limits how big an increase in state funding traditional public schools can get, no such limit applies to charter schools. The more students charter schools enroll, the more state funding they get.
And for the first time this fall, Ohio charter schools will also get an additional $100 per student to buy, rent or renovate their buildings. In the past, charter schools — especially new charter schools — have struggled to pay for buildings.
The facility funding is “not nearly enough but at least it’s a step in the right direction,” said Stephanie Klupinski of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Winners and Losers
For both traditional public schools and charter schools, the formula the state uses to determine how much each school gets is based on demographics and local wealth. It does not take school performance into account.
But, as it turns out, for both charter schools and traditional public school districts, some of the lowest performing schools are expected to get the largest state funding increases.
Charter schools that received the state’s lowest rating are projected to receive, on average, about twice what schools with the state’s highest ratings are expected to receive. The same holds true for traditional public school districts.
But the disparity in funding been top-rated and bottom-rated charter schools strikes some charter school advocates as unfair.
Besides the funding changes, the state budget also:
- Allows charter schools to enroll and charge tuition for out-of-state students
- Gives the the Ohio Department of Education more power to sanction the organizations overseeing a charter school if their schools aren’t in compliance with state laws; and
- Removes the requirement that classroom teachers hired to teach physical education in charter schools as of July 1 have a valid license for teaching physical education.
“Not only will high-quality charters not get funding, but low-quality charters could get a boost. That can’t be right. No legislator in their right mind would get behind something like this,” John Zitzner, president of Friends of Breakthrough Schools told the Akron Beacon Journal.
While lawmakers guaranteed that no traditional public school would get less state funding under this budget, the same guarantee did not apply to charter schools.
About 45 charter schools are projected to get less state funding next year. About 15 would see no increase in funding.
Dropout recovery charter schools, which serve high school students who have dropped out of traditional public schools, are projected to receive some of the biggest increases. The Akron Beacon Journal reports:
These 61 [dropout recovery school] programs, which serve less than 8 percent of Ohio’s charter school students, would receive more than 15 percent of the $22.6 increase in basic state aid for Ohio charter schools.
Life Skills Center of Cincinnati, for example, is projected to get another $1,340 per student next year, with the largest part of that increase coming from vocational ed funding.
The Cincinnati school district is slated to get an additional $209 per student.
Breakthrough Schools and Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst group as well as others lobbied lawmakers to tie charter school funding to performance.
But the changes they were looking for did not make it into the budget.
The Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools does not support basing charter schools’ state funding on their performance, Klupinski said, though the charter school group does support giving high-performing charter schools more money through state grants or other programs.
“OAPCS has been in favor of recognizing that some schools take a while to get good,” she said.