Baltimore charter school funding: Is the gap between charters and other schools unfair?

Bs-ed-charter-schools. In principle, Baltimore and other school districts ought to be providing the same level of financial support for a student whether he or she attends a traditional public school or a charter school. In that light, the news that the city will be providing $9,300 per pupil to charters next year but only $5,000 per pupil in traditional schools sounds like an injustice. But that comparison is misleading and not particularly meaningful. Traditional schools benefit from a host of resources provided by the system’s central administration – maintenance and other facility costs, principals’ salaries and other services are handled out of the North Avenue budget, not those of individual schools. Charters must cover those costs themselves. Plus, students are not created equal in the eyes of the district’s funding formula; special education students, English language learners, students whose families are poor and other special classes of children are given larger allocations. Comparing the average per pupil funding from one school (or one class of schools) to another means little without considering the student populations involved.


All that is to say that while the $9,300/$5,000 differential looks bad, it isn’t necessarily unfair, and schools CEO Andres Alonso’s intention to revisit the funding formula he adopted shortly after arriving in Baltimore should be greeted warily. If something has changed that has made the so-called Fair Student Funding Model unfair, that is one thing. But if the reason for the disparity is simply based on the different responsibilities of charters and traditional schools, or that despite Mr. Alonso’s central office budget cutting, charters are providing administrative services more cheaply than North Avenue, that’s another thing entirely.


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