Public education in North Carolina is not being funded fairly and equally in nearly all of our state’s local districts. The problem: Our children who attend public charter schools are being shortchanged by their local districts.
On Wednesday, N.C. senators addressed this inequity by voting to pass SB 456, a Charter School Modification bill that would restore fairer local funding for the children being educated at public charter schools. It is important to remember that public charter schools are public schools and that the children they teach deserve fair and equal funding for their educations.
On average, public charter schools across the state receive less than 75 cents for each student for every dollar traditional public schools get per student. For example, Wake County gives traditional schools an estimated $2,577 per student. Yet, a child from the same county who chooses to attend a public charter school is afforded just $2,048. The discrepancy is even higher in Durham County, which spends an estimated $4,149 per student in traditional schools but $3,086 for those in charter schools – a difference of $1,063 per child.
That means Research Triangle High School in Durham County has lost out on $369,062 this year. Eric Grunden, the school’s chief officer and co-founder, said, “What bothers me the most about it is when I hear traditional districts talk about leveling the playing field, and all the advantages charter schools get, and the rules we don’t have to follow. I’d gladly exchange some rules to replace that huge financial disparity.”
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RTHS, which opened in 2012, serves 347 students in grades 9-11 and uses a blend of digital material and hands-on experiences through its STEM program and college-prep courses. The school also provides lunch and transportation so that low-income students can have access. Last school year, RTHS saw a 291 percent increase in proficiency among its economically disadvantaged students.
This unfair funding model means our state’s public charter schools have been denied more than $33 million this year. Even more devastating is the fact that these funds are withheld from more than 90 percent of the children who attend public charter schools. Don’t these children deserve fair funding for their educations, too?
This is not a fight between us (school choice advocates) versus them (local school districts). Fundamentally, this is all about equity for our children and for those families who choose public charter schools. We know the local school districts have strong voices and power. However, I want public charter school families to know that they, too, have an army of supporters who are standing on behalf of their children.
All children – regardless of which public school they attend – deserve fair funding for their education.
Darrell Allison is president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina.