DURHAM — Five charter schools are suing Durham Public Schools for more than $1.2 million they say the district owes them from the past five years.
Healthy Start Academy and Kestrel Heights School have filed one lawsuit. Central Park School for Children, Maureen Joy Charter School and Carter Community Charter School have filed another.
The charters claim DPS is using different formulas to determine how much money they receive and how much the district spends, per student. DPS bases its per student funding on enrollment at the beginning of the year but is paying charter schools based on their monthly numbers, the suit alleges.
A 2009 court decision in Charlotte, where the Sugar Creek Charter School sued Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, determined that the same per pupil funding formula should be used for traditional public and charter schools, said Philip S. Adkins, an attorney representing Healthy Start and Kestrel Heights.
Both Healthy Start Academy and Kestrel Heights asked DPS if they were owed more money from the district. They received a letter in May saying they were owed about $40,000 each "without explanation," Adkins said.
Adkins sued the district 10years ago, claiming monies from county fines and forfeitures should be included in the school fund, which would benefit charter schools. An out-of-court settlement led to additional money for Durham's charter schools.
"Given that track record, we want to know how they decided the division between the charter schools and DPS," he said. "They clearly owe, even by their own admission. It's just a matter of how much."
The three other charter schools contend that the district owes them hundreds of thousands: $452,822 (Central Park), $472,107 (Maureen Joy) and $327,146 (Carter Community).
Charter schools provide more value to taxpayers because the money they receive from public school districts covers educational expenses only, Adkins said.
"We're more accountable because if we're not producing the product the parents want, then the parents will pull their kids out and that money goes with them as well," he said.