It’s disconcerting when a spokesperson for the charter school industry in North Carolina seems misinformed about how school finance works.
In his March 1 letter “Charter school realities,” Lee Teague, the executive director of the NC Public Charter School Association, stated that when money is transferred from a public school to a charter, it doesn’t harm the public school financially. “Since charter schools are funded per pupil, simple math tells us that per pupil funding in conventional schools would stay the same.” But he has the math wrong.
When a neighborhood school loses a percentage of students in a particular grade level or across grade levels to charters, the school can’t simply proportionally cut fixed costs for things like transportation and physical plant. It also can’t cut the costs of grade-level teaching staff proportionally. That would increase class sizes and leave the remaining students underserved. So instead, the school cuts a support service – a reading specialist, a special education teacher, a librarian, an art or music teacher – to offset the loss of funding.
This damages the effectiveness of the neighborhood school long term and may cause it to slide into the ranks of “low performing.”