The Trump administration is seeking to cut $9.2 billion — or 13.5 percent — from the Education Department’s budget, a dramatic downsizing that would reduce or eliminate grants for teacher training, after-school programs and aid to low-income and first-generation college students. Along with the cuts, the administration is also proposing to shift $1.4 billion toward one of President Trump’s key priorities: Expanding charter schools, private-school vouchers and other alternatives to traditional public schools.
When charter schools expand, and more kids leave classrooms run by the School District of Philadelphia, it’s not as costly as previously estimated, although the total remains significant. That’s according to a much-anticipated report commissioned by the district in 2015, completed by the consultancy Afton Partners. Uri Monson, Chief Financial Officer for The School District of Philadelphia says in the district’s press release, “Some of the constraints that lead to stranded costs are partially controllable and can be mitigated with action by SDP, albeit via difficult actions such as layoffs and school closures. Continuing to grow and improve District-managed schools, and attracting students back to great schools near where they live, would also mitigate these fiscal challenges for the District.”
Commentary: As charter school growth slows, time to re-examine bureaucratic, funding, political hurdles
States may need to take a look at the incentives — financial and otherwise — embedded in their laws and policies. An economist might say that the supply of charter schools is simply meeting the logical limit of the current funding and political environment. If we want supply to change, we first need to change that environment…For more information on national charter school growth, read the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools’ recently released report on estimated enrollment for the 2016-17 school year here.
Schools loosened their belts a little, in spite of lower federal support, according to new federal data from fiscal 2014. That year, the median school district spent about $10,300 per student, up about 1 percent from fiscal 2012. The uptick was driven by higher spending in suburbs, towns and rural areas; urban districts actually spent a little less.
The plan is carefully framed to deal with some of the objections that have undermined past efforts to reform the charter law. School systems with fewer than 3,000 students would be excluded, negating concerns that a charter could have a severe impact on small school divisions. Public charter schools would have no claim to local funding, and existing schools would continue operations unaltered, without loss of needed resources or local control.
The district’s school population will continue to grow as new apartment units come on line and other projects are built, charter school officials say. “Given the impact of the significant influx of new students into local schools, this expansion request is ideally timed to assist the district in addressing these new needs at a lower cost. Even if one were to accept the district’s claims to the contrary, it cannot be credibly concluded that this phenomenon will cause devastating financial harm to the PPS district,” reads the letter.
In at least 35 urban school districts with significant numbers of charter schools, efforts are under way to jointly improve instruction, align policies, address inequities, or garner efficiencies. About a dozen of these districts are using cooperation, also commonly referred to as district–charter collaboration, to drive decisions and address systemic challenges, including tracking school performance, student enrollment, and school closure. The report includes recommendations for district and charter leaders, State Education Agencies, and funders to better support the often difficult, politically divisive work of cooperation.
“The state also cushions the blow to district schools by reimbursing them over a six-year period for some of the aid they lose. It is the most generous reimbursement policy of any state, though it has not always been fully funded. The goal is to give traditional public schools a reasonable period of time to cut costs to account for the loss of state aid.”
With a perceived inequality regarding funding for district schools and charter schools, based on the fact that charter schools are funded on their Oct. 1 Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) in comparison to district schools, which are funded by their average daily membership, both charter schools and district schools want to see change — an equalization in the amount of funding provided by the state.
Weighted average daily attendance, the cost of education index, “golden pennies” — the way state and local tax dollars funds public schools is complex set of concepts that takes time and effort to understand. In addition, as a result of seven lawsuits challenging the system’s constitutionality since 1984, Texas has ended up with a patchwork set of formulas, weights and measures that is updated in some areas and outmoded in others.