Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Myth: Charter schools take money from traditional schools.

So this is how it works.

Schools have two sources for funds. The first is local, which means a portion of your property taxes, any bond issues or sales taxes that you vote to go to schools, and any local fundraising efforts. (Think Box Tops for Kids and similar programs.) The second is state, which means both state and federal funds. These funds go through the State Department of Education and are dispensed to schools based on a complicated bit of math called ‘State Aid’ formula. In a nutshell, each student has x amount of money attached to them. X is determined by taking a base amount and ‘weighting’ those funds for students whom are lower-income, have disabilities, or a variety of other needs-based factors.

Charter schools don’t get to dip from both funds. Charter schools only receive state funds, meaning no local taxes, no bond issues, etc. For instance, we live in Lawton, so our property taxes go to Lawton Public Schools. Our children attend Epic Charter School, so our State Aid funds go to Epic Charter School. The take-away is that our charter schools receive less money than our traditional brick-and-mortar schools, not more, as some critics would have you believe.

Do charter schools take money from traditional schools? Yes, when they take students. However, the traditional school no longer has to pay for that child, and gets to keep the local funds. So not only do they not lose money on state funds, but they are able to spread those local funds among fewer students. A win-win for traditional schools, which is why almost all Oklahoma charter schools are run by traditional school districts. You might notice that these districts are happy with their own schools. It’s the other schools that are villainous.

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