Commentary

Senate bill would exacerbate growing charter school funding advantage

General Assembly leaders have resuscitated an unnecessary and divisive battle between public schools. SB 658 revives what has become an annual tradition on Jones Street: pitting charter schools against traditional schools in a clash for funding.

The battle in question concerns how local funding is shared between traditional public schools and charter schools. SB 658 would require traditional school districts to send more of their local funds to charter schools.

This bill is misguided because charter schools already receive more local funding than traditional public schools, and the gap is growing.  A NC Justice Center report published in September showed that, controlling for student residence, the local spending in charter schools in fiscal year 14-15 exceeded the local per pupil spending in traditional schools by $142 per student. That gap has increased in fiscal year 15-16, with charter schools now exceeding local spending of traditional schools by $212 per student.  SB 658 would only exacerbate these funding discrepancies.

This is not to say that charter schools are over-funded. Like traditional public schools, North Carolina’s charter schools are woefully underfunded.  Public school budgets remain below pre-Recession levels.  Since the 2010 change in General Assembly leadership, public schools have fewer teachers, teacher assistants, books, and supplies. These budget constraints harm charter schools just as they do traditional public schools.

The General Assembly should reject SB 658. Charter schools will be better served if funding is increased for all of North Carolina’s public schools.  North Carolina’s ranks 44th in the country for per pupil expenditures and 40th in terms of public school funding effort. Not only should the state increase school funding, the state can afford to increase school funding.

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