Why Charter Schools Got More Funding

The president of the state teacher union is crying foul over a proposal to spend $7.3 million more on the state’s 13 charter schools next year, according to The Providence Journal:

While the charter school allocation is a fraction of the state’s $884.2 million education budget proposed for next year, union officials say it is unfair to dedicate additional resources to a handful of charter schools serving 3,200 students, when school districts are making deep cuts to programs and personnel.

“The problem with proposing additional funding for charter schools during the current budget crisis is that it further diverts those dollars from state aid to education and the approximately 150,000 students in traditional public schools,” said Robert A. Walsh Jr., NEARI’s executive director. “The further diversion of these funds hurts the existing schools and directly impacts property taxes.”

Of course, this complaint assumes charter schools are already adequately funded while public schools aren’t. But how would Mr. Walsh know this? The answer is: he wouldn’t. In fact, nor would anyone else in the state. As the education commissioner points out in the article, a per-pupil funding formula for Rhode Island is needed to ensure fairness in how funding is allocated.

But this story raises another question as well. In a time of cuts and deficits, what in the world are state educators thinking in spending more money on charter schools? Well, here’s a radical idea. Could it be because the schools have earned it? In a companion piece to the above story, The Journal also has a feature on a charter school in Central Falls that is outperforming regular public schools in the district. Statewide, the record is more mixed, but still, seven out of eleven charter schools last year had higher standardized test scores that their public school peers, according to this roundup. Two of those that did not were unionized trade schools.

One further advantage of a per-pupil financing formula is that it makes it easier to convert public education funds into vouchers or tax credits, allowing parents to pull their children out of failing schools and put them into ones that work. That way, teachers and bureaucrats are punished for failure, not the students.

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