Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn has just released his calculation of how much he wants to give charter schools and their students when these popular, voter-approved schools open next fall.  As many of my readers will recall, Superintendent Dorn opposed allowing children in Washington state to attend charter schools.

He just posted this chart on the State Board of Education website showing how much education funding he wants to provide charter school children:

Allocation, Charter Schools Estimated Average per StudentFTE School Year 2013-14
Basic Education $5,297
Programs with Enhancements
Special Education $5,048
Learning Assistance Program $466
Transitional Bilingual $891
Highly Capable $9
Student Transportation $807

These numbers looked odd to me.  So I compared them to the state report showing the money students at traditional public schools receive.   Report 1191, Apportionment for September 30, 2013, shows that public school students currently receive the following amounts:

Basic Education $5,537
Programs with Enhancements
Special Education $5,428
Learning Assistance $464
Transitional Bilingual $948
Highly Capable $416
Student Transportation not enough information

Comparing these figures suggests Superintendent Dorn plans to provide each charter school student about $1,082 less in funding than other public school children receive.

The planned unequal funding levels seems unfair to charter school children.  When voters passed Initiative 1240 they intended children at charter schools to receive equal treatment.  Section 222 (Funding) of Initiative 1240 says:

“(2) …the superintendent of public instruction shall allocate funding for a charter school including general apportionment, special education, categorical, and other nonbasic education moneys….  Categorical funding must be allocated to a charter school based on the same funding criteria used for noncharter public schools…”

Public education funding is complicated, to say the least.  There may be information in the state numbers that explains why children at charter schools may receive less education funding than other children.  As a policy analyst, I have occasionally found official reports to be unclear because of their sheer complexity.  However, if Superintendent Dorn is planning to underfund charter schools, this should at least be reported to the public.

The lower funding may discourage some families from seeking educational opportunities at a local charter school.  That would be the practical result.  On principle, however, it just seems unfair.

This report is part of WPC’s Initiative 1240 Follow Up Project.

[Reposted with permission from the Washington Policy Center's blog.]