Opinion: Time is running out in Legislature for fairer funding of charter schools

Students rally for fairer funding of charter schools during National School Choice Week in Texas. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Matthew L. Evans serves as the manager of advocacy & community engagement for KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools. In this guest column, he maintains charter school funding falls short in Georgia and urges the General Assembly to address the issue.

By Matthew L. Evans

No matter where they live, all students deserve the opportunity to receive a quality public education. Their future opportunity for success should not be driven by their ZIP code. Their demographics should not define their destinies.

There is no denying that the state of education in Georgia is changing. More options are now available for students in different areas around the state, including Atlanta, as charter schools continue to expand. Charter schools are public schools, required to teach to the same academic standards and to be measured by the same tests as other public schools in their district. A glaring difference, however, is in the amount of funding they receive.

Today in Atlanta, public charter schools receive as much as 30 percent less funding than traditional public schools within the same local school district. Why? Because they are not treated equitably by Georgia’s current education funding formula, one that was designed years before the passage of the state’s first public charter school law.

In 2015, Gov. Nathan Deal created the Education Reform Commission, a group of educators, legislators, administrators, community leaders and experts. This group was tasked with generating recommendations for improving education in the state. Through its work, the commission recognized the important role that charter schools play in the state’s system of public education and addressed this funding inequity in its final recommendations.

It was the opinion of the commission that charter schools should be funded equitably and that measures should be established to ensure that both state and federal funds are allocated appropriately to these public charter schools. Unfortunately, these reforms have yet to move forward, even as the legislative session heads into its final days.

Since the ERC published its recommendations, nearly two years have passed without action. The students in our state’s public charter schools should not have to wait any longer to be treated equitably, nor should the parents and educators who are committed to their success.

While true equity is not now on the table, House Bill 430 is a step in the right direction. The bill attempts to provide charter schools with their earned distribution of federal funds, access to unused public facilities, and improvements to the charter authorization process. As the debate continues, we are hopeful that the originally proposed language that would provide equitable funding for Georgia’s charter schools will again be considered. On behalf of the many Georgia families whose children attend public charter schools, we urge our legislators to do so.

KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools is proving the possible, even in those communities where traditional schools have historically underperformed. KIPP’s first two KIPP Atlanta Collegiate classes graduated high school at an average rate of 93.5 percent (average of 2015 and 2016) compared to Atlanta Public Schools’ rate of 71.5 percent in 2015 and the state of GA rate of 79.2 percent in 2016.

This demonstrates that KIPP Metro Atlanta scholars graduate at a rate comparable to students from high-income families, and significantly higher than the 9 percent low-income average which is more representative of the communities served. These graduation rates also reveal the potential of students when supported in an environment that is committed to excellence and high expectations, like the schools managed by KIPP.

But these results do not happen easily, and can be more difficult for charters to achieve with reduced funding under the current formula. Just as all students deserve the same opportunity for success, all public schools deserve the same funding to provide that chance.

 

Reader Comments 0

34 comments
gapeach101
gapeach101

When charter schools pay their fair share of the retirement fund contributions, I'll consider their request.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

“Charter schools are public schools, required to teach to the same academic standards and to be measured by the same tests as other public schools in their district. A glaring difference, however, is in the amount of funding they receive.”

Well now, what do we have, here?  What public schools – and charter schools are not public schools – are accused of doing?  Begging for more money to throw at the problem?

Give KIPP Metro Charter Schools more money so “[n]o matter where they live, all students [will have] the opportunity to receive a quality public education.”

Yup, the “opportunity,” all right.  More money for the opportunity.

But reality for KIPP Metro Charter Schools does not go past “opportunity” to any great extent, if at all. 

KIPP Metro Charter Schools’ measured performance is clear on this point…

https://files.acrobat.com/a/preview/47138ace-7ddf-464c-ba4b-fbd03c4f3f0e

UGAFolks77
UGAFolks77

@EdJohnson So Strive and Ways being 3rd and 4th in APS CCRPI scores means nothing I guess?  HIgher than Sutton and any school these kids would be going to considering where they live.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@UGAFolks77 

So yours is the status quo thinking that higher rank necessarily equates to higher excellence?  Fact is, CCRPI data over time show KIPP charter schools perform much the same as APS public schools as regards educating “Black” children; meaning, aiming to train the children to perform to current standards so then undermining the children’s inherent ability to learn to learn.

1776 Nation
1776 Nation

Charter schools should get the funding other public schools get. Period. Obviously they do not.

And the war against parental choice should stop.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@1776 Nation

Are parents special snowflakes that get to spend the hard earned money of non-parents as they please? What makes them so special? Please state a logical argument for your position- or is it just " I want your money because I'm greedy and too lazy to take care of my children's education"?

1776 Nation
1776 Nation

@AvgGeorgian 

Charter schools are public schools. Please understand that. 

Kids that attend them deserve full funding.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@UGAFolks77 @1776 Nation @AvgGeorgian

“If charter schools are not public schools then why are they declared so by APS?”

Because APS has a superintendent and school board that show they have little, if any, understanding of hence commitment to sustaining APS as a the public institution it is in reality.

“And why would they get public funding and why don't they cost money to attend?”

You’re kidding, right?  Why is it so hard to understand the reality that charter schools siphon funding and other resources from public schools?  And for what?  Why, for charter schools to fund profit-making “opportunity to receive a quality public education,” of course.  The slick sounding word “opportunity” simply means “a chance to get in.”  Public schools, however, do not offer “a chance to get in.”  Rather, public schools are open to accepting all children who show up at the door and are not profit-making motivated to do so.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Kipp schools are failures based on:

1. much higher attrition rate than in the school systems from which they draw their students — especially among African-American children.

2. KIPP charter schools got $12,731 per student, about $3,200 more than the typical charter school, and nearly $1,000 more than regular public schools.

KIPP network's success also stems from its selective inclusion of students — and the exclusion of others.

4.The findings in our report show that students with disabilities and students classified as English language learners are greatly underrepresented

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2011/03/31/135014989/kipp-charter-schools-have-funding-edge-study-says

cellophane
cellophane

Charter schools are getting fair funding-- and they knew the funding when they signed their charter and promised they could produce results with that funding.  Many of the state charter commission charters get MORE than they would as a local school (and get big "hold harmless" windfalls when their students leave).  The "30% less" is the virtual schools with no buildings and sky-high student-teacher ratios. 

Charter school proponents promised Georgia they could get better results with less money.  Guess what? Out of the 20 state-approved charter schools, only ONE outperforms its district.  ONE.  There is not a single A or B school among them-- half are C's and the rest are D's and F's. 

Educator4Life
Educator4Life

@cellophane You got your hands on some bad data. Such a shame for you to post innacurate information.

cellophane
cellophane

@UGAFolks77 @cellophane  You have to do some digging, a little tougher than Google.  Go to State Dept of Ed website-- revenue reports under finance dept, and comparing CCRPI scores by district against the individual charter schools.  As for the letter grades, just check Governor's Office of Student Achievement, School Reports.  Then head over to the State Charter Commission website and see how their 20 schools are doing.  Ask for the Charter Performance Framework reports on each of their schools and see if they are doing better than their districts.  New reports will be out next week for 2016. 

cellophane
cellophane

@Educator4Life @cellophane  Care to counter it?  It's all public information, taken from the State Department of Education website, Governor's Office of Student Achievement website, and the State Charter School Commission website.  It would be GREAT to see a "five years later" after Amendment One report and see how these schools are doing.... the ones that were denied by local boards and appealed to the state. 


waitbutwhy
waitbutwhy

This post is ridiculous and uniformed. Not only are APS charters the highest funded in the state (maybe the whole SE) but they take a direct proportion of the budget with every student that transfers yet contribute nothing to the fixed costs (pensions from the 80s or cost of neighborhood schools that are 1/2 empty but the community won't agree to close). They also have the perverse incentive to argue against overall fiscal efficiency because $ of central office bloat adds $0.14 to charter funding. 30% less is a cherry picked example. Most traditional public schools run on far less direct $ than charter schools get.


Take every kid in a neighborhood, contribute a fair share to fixed district wide costs, and advocate for overall budget efficiency and then try again. 


If you look at APS charters' performance relative to their challenge index (poverty and ESOL) they do no better/worse that average public school given the same kids.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@UGAFolks77 @waitbutwhy

Haha. Kipp Strive has 336 kids(75% FRL and 10% SWD) selected by educated, concerned, and motivated parents. Bunche has 770 kids(99%FRL, 13% FRL) and takes all in district.

UGAFolks77
UGAFolks77

@AvgGeorgian @UGAFolks77 @waitbutwhy So you're saying Bunche parents are not educated, concerned or motivated? Every other KIPP school in APS is CEP meaning they all receive free meals and specifically, they are at FRL of 96.7%.

UGAFolks77
UGAFolks77

@avggeorgian no response to real data, huh?

kaelyn
kaelyn

My head just spins when I read about the battle over charter schools. The pro charter group says they need better options than the failing local public schools. The anti charter group says charter schools siphon money from traditional public schools.

I started out being on the fence, but I'm about to jump down and land on the pro charter side. I don't know if the grass really is greener over there, but the grass has far too many brown spots and weeds in my local public schools. I've volunteered for years trying to make these schools better, but the system is set up to avoid change like it's the plague.

It's too late for my kids to have other options, but I tried for years to get them into lottery schools. Just like the Ga Lottery, I have no shot at a winning ticket. Educating our kids shouldn't be left up to luck. So, I say give the parents a choice. Too many of us don't have one now.

Richard Cionci
Richard Cionci

Charter schools, in this state, are obligated to answer to local school boards. They are not in the true sense, a charter school, simply a public school with another name.

Astropig
Astropig

Totally agree with Mr. Evans. Charter schools teach the same things with the same standards to the same kids that zip code schools do.As he points out,they are public schools that have the same challenges and setbacks that other schools experience.Their students should not be treated as second class citizens under our state funding formula.


I especially like his mention of the initiative to allow charters fair access to unused public facilities.This could be a great way to provide an option for parents that are losing their schools due to shutdowns and consolidations.Abandoned school facilities were built for public education.They should be used for the purpose for which their money was raised.(After being brought up to current code and safety standards,if needed)

ErnestB
ErnestB

@Astropig


In DeKalb, several charters are using facilities that were shutdown hence I believe that option exists.  There is an interesting question as to who is responsible for repairs needed to bring them up to code, especially if they have been shut down 2 or more years.

ErnestB
ErnestB

I'd be curious to hear how Mr. Evans defines 'equitable funding for charter schools'.  While every child is entitled to local and state funding allocations, there are not necessarily entitled to some of the federal funding earmarked  for qualified students, where it be IDEA, FRL, Title 1 or other subsidies.