In Budget Hearings, Little Good News for Charter Funding; It’s Time to Change That

By Donna Siminski

With another budget season upon us, it is clear that once again, New Jersey charter school students are being short changed.  The Governor’s FY16 budget proposal did not include any additional dollars to offset the funding inequity that currently exists and it kept public school district funding flat, which compounds the negative impact on charter school students.

As a reminder, the charter school law provides that charter students are supposed to receive 90 percent of the school district’s per-pupil funding. However, on average, charter students are funded at 69 percent because they don’t receive Adjustment Aid, which is a large portion of funding for most districts.  Rather than receiving 90 percent of the whole funding pie, they receive 90 percent of what is left after adjustment aid and other aids are taken out.  On average, charter students receive $2,000 less than what was intended.  This leaves many schools flat and others far below the adequacy budget for per pupil spending as determined in the 2008 Funding Reform Act.

Let’s look at Jersey City for a great example of the funding flaw.  Child A attends the district school and receives $11,400, while child B attends a public charter school and receives $6,900.  Both students are public school students, but receive very unequal funding support resulting in a funding gap.  In addition, all facilities related expenses for charter schools come out of that per pupil allocation.

This problem exists in large part because charter school students do not receive Adjustment Aid or any of the newly created aids, further increasing the funding gap.  PARCC Readiness and Per Pupil Growth Aids are the newest examples of funding that charter students do not receive.   As of the FY15 budget, district school students receive $10 per student for PARCC Readiness and $10 per student for Per Pupil Growth Aid.

Another issue this year seems to be the drastic increase in weighted enrollment for the districts. The increase in enrollment numbers lowers the charter per-pupil amount even more. This is having a dramatic impact on charter schools in urban communities and the disparity continues to grow.

Thanks to considerable involvement from charter school leaders and business administrators at this year’s public budget hearings, the budget committee members have taken note of this growing problem.  This was apparent at last week’s Assembly Budget hearing with the DOE when Assemblyman Gary Schaer and Assemblyman Troy Singleton pressed Commissioner Hespe for recommendations to address the funding crisis several charter schools are facing.

According to the Commissioner the current funding situation is the best worst case scenario in terms of keeping charter schools funded, but acknowledged that more must be done to correct the funding formula.

In the meantime many charter school students are receiving far less funding than their peers in district schools.  No answers provided yesterday address this gross disparity.

We can’t sit by and allow this to continue.  Collectively we must make sure the Legislators and Governor know that this funding level is unsustainable.  The current funding policy isn’t fair and it isn’t right.  It’s time to change it.

Charter school students receive less than half the aids of district schools as shown below:

Charter School Aid District School Aid
90% of per pupil Equalization Aid Equalization Aid
90% of per pupil Special Education Special Education Categorical Aid
90% per pupil Speech Only Speech Only
90% of per pupil Local Levy + CPI Local Levy + CPI
Security Aid Security Aid
Preschool aid (where applicable) Preschool Aid (where applicable)
DO NOT RECEIVE Adjustment Aid
DO NOT RECEIVE Additional Adjustment Aid
DO NOT RECEIVE Educational Adequacy Aid
DO NOT RECEIVE School Choice Aid
DO NOT RECEIVE Per Pupil Growth Aid
DO NOT RECEIVE PARCC Readiness Aid
DO NOT RECEIVE Under Adequacy Aid
DO NOT RECEIVE Transportation Aid
DO NOT RECEIVE Debt Service Aid Type 1 & 2

Donna Siminski is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at the New Jersey Charter Schools Association.  She has nearly 20 years of experience in policy and legislation.

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About New Jersey Charter Schools Association

Formed in 1999, the New Jersey Charter Schools Association (NJCSA) is a 501(c)(3) membership association that represents the state’s charter school community and, by extension, charter school students and their parents. We are committed to advancing quality public education for New Jersey’s children through quality public charter schools, with the vision that every child in the State of New Jersey should have the opportunity to attend a high-quality public school that best meets his or her needs.
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