COLUMBUS —As the DeWine administration crafts a new two-year state operating budget, a conservative school-choice advocate is highlighting that Ohio charter schools are getting thousands of dollars less per pupil than traditional public schools.

“Ohio has woefully underfunded public charter schools, even as they serve large numbers of low-income and minority students,” said Chad Aldis, vice president for policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “No child’s education should be worth less just because her parents choose a different public school that better meets her needs.”

A new report from Fordham says states with high-performing charter sectors typically combine strong oversight with sufficient funding. While “for many years, Ohio did neither of these very well,” Fordham says reforms passed in 2015 have improved charter accountability, but significant funding issues remain.

Averaging data over five years, Fordham found that Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown —the so-called Big 8 urban districts in Ohio — get $14,648 in total per-pupil revenue, compared to $10,556 for charter schools located within those districts. If those charter schools got the same funding as traditional schools, it would average an additional $1 million per school.

The issue is not new — the funding gap has always existed in Ohio, largely the result of traditional districts collecting local tax revenue. The report notes that traditional schools get about 44 percent of their funding from the state, compared to 83 percent for charter schools.

The report, which excludes transportation funding because traditional districts transport students to their charter schools, says, for example, that Columbus City Schools in 2017 got $14,333 in total revenue per pupil, compared to $9,647 for a charter school within the district.

“Continuing to underfund charters not only shortchanges students, but also creates an inhospitable environment for quality charters to expand and serve more students in need an excellent education,” Aldis said.

But, some experts say, the issue is more complicated than simply increasing charter school funding.

Charter schools are not directly funded. Instead, the state subtracts the money from the bottom line for traditional districts, depending on where a charter student lives. For a number of districts, the state already subtracts more per charter student than the district gets in state funding, costing traditional schools hundreds of millions of dollars in local taxpayer money.

Increasing charter school funding without changing the funding system could exacerbate that problem.

The group plans to release recommendations in February, about a month before Gov. Mike DeWine introduces his operating budget. Patterson and Cupp said the recommendations will include a proposal for direct funding to charter schools.