As you know, the upcoming 2015 session of the Minnesota Legislature is a budget session and there are a number of charter school finance issues that have become fornt burner issues as a result of legislative actions over the last several years. Some of these issues are a result of the condition of state finances in the recent past, others as a result of policy positions of the past and current administrations, and others as a result of proposals by members of the legislature.
Among the reasons for the growing equity in funding between traditional districts and charter schools are the following legislative decisions:
- The decision to fund more education costs through property taxes rather than state taxes,
- The decision to phase out the state portion of local operating levies,
- The decision to end Extended School Year funding,
- The decision to allow school districts to impose operating levies without voter approval,
- The decision to exclude charter schools from “Small School Funding Disparity” formula,
- The decision to require charter schools to pay a portion of excess special education costs
The cumulative effect of these actions, no matter the source, has been a growing gap in funding equity between students who attend traditional public school district schools and those who attend public charter schools. The equity gap according to studies is most profound in the metropolitan urban core, however, the inequity is growing no matter where charter school students live or attend school.
All of these, and other decisions by the legislature and the Administration are expanding the inequity in funding. It is gap continues to grow at some point it will raise a constitutional issue of whether the State of Minnesota is providing equitable resources to all of Minnesota’s public school students. Hopefully, the issue of growing funding inequity will be addressed by the administration and legislature before things reach that point.
However, we cannot nor should we expect them to take up the issue unless the charter school community speaks with one voice about this growing inequity in funding. It is the job of the entire charter school community to raise the issue, work to educate lawmakers about the impact on public school students who choose charter schools, and advocate for changes in public policy.
Everyone in the charter school community needs to become an active advocate for equitable funding for all public school students, no matter which public school they attend, charter schools or traditional schools.