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Charter schools should be funded directly

By John Published: September 1, 2010

The Ohio School Funding Advisory Council subcommittee charged with finding better ways for district schools and charter schools to co-exist has issued its recommendations. Click on  NEW! Report released by the Traditional Public/Community School Collaboration Subcommittee for the full report.

The top recommendation is to pay charter schools directly instead of churning  the state money through the home district of each charter school student and then deducting the charter school funds from the state money the district receives. This deduction-transfer system has always raised a key question because districts combine state aid with the money they raise locally through tax levies: Are local taxpayers funding charter schools that they have no control over? Charter school proponents have always argued that the money for charter school students is pure state money, unmingled with local taxpayer money.  Many public school treasurers would beg to differ, including Akron's Jack Pierson, who is on the subcommittee.

Funding charter schools directly would remove all doubt about the source of funds for charter schools. 

Read the four recommendations outlined in the executive summary after the jump

1. Schools should be funded by direct payment for the students they educate, rather than the deduction-transfer system currently in place.

o Rationale: Subcommittee members recommend that students should be funded where they are educated by direct payments to the schools that educate them. The decoupling in the distribution of funds should retain the current single appropriation line item in the state budget so that the funds are linked in appropriation for traditional and community schools. This approach to funding provides transparency of funding for both school types.

2. Reduce the variability of community school funding, such as through the use of a three month moving average student count.

o Rationale: Changing the funding mechanism requires the state to consider the way students are counted within the two school types and what process would work best to meet both the school and the students' needs. The current system of payments to community schools based on monthly student counts is highly variable, causing disruptions for many schools which have little margin for fiscal error, and should be evened-out through a rolling three-month average or an equivalent mechanism proposed by ODE.

3. Defer to the Regional Variation Subcommittee for recommendations on ways to improve the coordination in transportation services between school systems, such as school districts and community schools.

o Rationale: After conducting a joint meeting with their peers in the Regional Variation Subcommittee (RVS) to learn the structure of Ohio's pupil transportation system, the members felt comfortable asking the RVS to address this issue because of its regional implications. Any recommendations made by the RVS that would impact the transportation of community school students will be reviewed by the Traditional Public/Community School Collaboration Subcommittee prior to the final adoption of those recommendations.

4. Support the recommendations of the Special Needs subcommittee to use the same special education weights and category compilations for all public school students.

o Rationale: The current differentiation, partially due to the fact that community schools and school districts are currently funded in different ways, should be resolved to ensure that no special education student is seen as ''worth'' more in one school than another. The subcommittee noted the work of the Special Needs Subcommittee in this area, and supported their efforts to align services for special education students across the state.

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