Local: Education

Report: D.C. public schools get about $13k more per student than charters

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Local,DC,Education,April Burbank

The District's charter schools received about $13,000 less in funding per student in fiscal 2011 than traditional public schools, according to a reportreleased Wednesday bythe Walton Family Foundation.

The foundation is a philanthropic nonprofit that supports education reform and is a donor to DC Public Schools. In 2010, the organization was one of four donors that helped fund performance-based bonuses for teachers under a new contract.

"D.C. is a classic example of how severe the disparity is between D.C. public school expenditure and charter school expenditure," said Ed Kirby, the Walton Family Foundation's deputy director of K-12 systemic reform investments.

Although the gap in per-student funding shrank slightly from 2007 to 2011, traditional public schools received about $29,145 in funding per pupil in 2011 compared with $16,361 per pupil at charter schools. The numbers include all funding for the schools, including construction costs.

Led by Larry Maloney, of the University of Arkansas, the researchers analyzed data dating to 2007 in an attempt to track the effect of the 2008 recession on public school funding.

The District had the biggest disparity of the five cities tracked by the report:Denver, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Newark, N.J., and the District. On average, researchers found a $4,000 funding disparity between the traditional and charter public schools. Those numbers were based on an analysis of federal funds, other public funds and nonpublic funds.

By law, the District has a mechanism to provide equitable funding to all students, with a funding baseline of $9,124 per student -- $9,306 in fiscal 2014 under Mayor Vincent Gray's budget proposal. Maloney said the District's baseline funding formula is "one of the fairest in the country," but public schools have other advantages over charter schools, such as access to facilities.

"What you see in many cases for charter schools is that they have to lease a facility rather than purchase a facility that's been designed to their needs," Maloney said. In D.C., that means that some charter schools often have to operate out of storefronts and other spaces that have been adapted for education.

Barnaby Towns, a spokesman for a number of D.C. charter school operators, said the report appeared to come to the same conclusions as a report released in January 2012 by the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools and Friends of Choice in Urban Schools.

In that report, D.C. education finance lawyer Mary Levy found that DC Public Schools receive assistance from city agencies that charter schools do not get, including facilities access, maintenance and legal assistance. Charter schools fund their facilities through a separate per-pupil facilities allowance.

The DC Public Schools office, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education and the DC Charter School Board said Wednesday afternoon they had not had enough time to review the report to comment on it.

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