At last Thursday’s rally, Achievement First Hartford High School student Shyheim Russell asked state legislators an important question: “Are my charter school classmates worth less than public school students?”
His question refers to the fact that charter schools in Connecticut receive thousands less in per-pupil taxpayer funding than traditional public schools – and yet, there are those who contend otherwise.
Earlier this week the Connecticut Mirror published an Op-Ed on their CT Viewpoints site by Fairfield resident Jennifer Jacobsen, who praised the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee for advancing a budget that would cut funding for two new charter schools, arguing that charter schools have seen massive increases in spending over the past 10 years:
“Charter schools have seen growth funding in our state for over a decade that has far surpassed what the traditional public schools have been receiving via the Education Cost Sharing formula: 1,400 percent to 60 percent respectively, according to the co-chair of the committee.”
Sounds pretty damning. Here’s why she’s wrong: The percentage increase is irrelevant.
Charter schools received less money per-pupil than traditional public schools ten years ago, and they continue to receive less now.
In fact, according to a recent University of Arkansas study, in the 2010-2011 school year Connecticut charter schools received 83 percent less per-pupil than traditional public schools. Even though the per-pupil funding has increased slightly since 2011, that gap persists. For example, in Bridgeport, charter schools receive on average close to $2,000 less per-student in taxpayer funding than traditional public schools.
Jacobsen argues that she wants to see the money go to the “neediest,” then uses the tired argument that charters push out or don’t admit certain groups, which is a common yet incredibly misleading claim.
Of course, there is no evidence that charter schools push students out except for anecdotal stories passed around. In fact, it recently came out that transfer rates at Achievement First — one of the schools most frequently accused of this practice — were lower or comparable to the district’s transfer rates.
Also, let’s not forget that comparing the number of student of a certain populations, such as special education, is much more complicated than a static number can describe.
For example, according to state data, 14 percent of the Bridgeport student population require special education services, but next door in Fairfield, only 11 percent do. Does this mean that Fairfield pushes students out? What about Trumbull High School, which only identified 6.9 percent of their student population as requiring special education services?
The interesting thing about Jacobsen’s arguments and the arguments of others hoping the funding cuts remain is that they are the ones that would stop money from going to the neediest in the state.
State data shows that 86 percent of charter elementary schools students and 83 percent of charter high schools students outperform their district counterparts. That number is even higher when you look at traditionally underserved groups like low-income and minority students.
Both Capital Prep Harbor Schools and Stamford Charter School of Excellence would be opening in communities where a majority of students go to chronically underperforming schools.
My question how is cutting their funding equality?
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