There was outrage on Tuesday by many leaders of D.C.’s charter school movement as the Mayor released her proposed fiscal year 2018 budget that included a 1.5 percent increase in the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula. This despite the fact that for the first time in years Ms. Bowser put in a 2.2 percent increase in the per pupil facility allotment. What’s the reason for the controversy?
The reason is simple. In 2016, as is required by law to be done every 24 months, the State Superintendent of Education convened a working group to review the level of the UPSFF. Participating in this body, among 13 others, were Irene Holtzman, the executive director of FOCUS; Scott Pearson, the executive director of the DC Public Charter School Board; and representatives from KIPP DC PCS, Two Rivers PCS, Appletree PCS, DC Prep PCS, Friendship PCS, E.L. Haynes PCS, Next Step PCS, and St. Coletta PCS. This is the group that came up with the push for the recommended increase. It is fascinating to see the reason for their conclusion. From the report:
“Increasing the base rate significantly, above the rate of inflation, continues to treat the Adequacy Study, the most recent, thorough and comprehensively researched examination of the UPSFF, as the “North Star” for guidance on the rate. By default, an increase in the base rate impacts the amounts in weights across the board.
An increase in the base rate provides: The greatest flexibility to meet the diverse needs of the greatest number of schools, and schools with varying demographic populations, including alternative schools, charter schools and DCPS schools. Funding for the single greatest cost for providing students a high quality education: the cost of salaries and benefits for the educator workforce. This includes, for example, the rising cost of healthcare and the interest of DC schools to have competitive compensation with surrounding jurisdictions.
A significant increase of 3.5% to the base rate specifically helps to:
Further defray the costs of transition from the previous summer school weight to the implementation of the at-risk weight, especially given evidence that some LEAs and schools gained more funding from this transition than others.
Provide the most flexible funding for core program services, and is enough to help fill identified gaps in funding at DCPS. Ensure that there is adequate funding for all students, and ensure that funding distributed from the at- risk weight is better leveraged and remains a supplement for the needs of those students most at risk.”
Is is astonishing that after six months of work the Mayor would ignore the findings of the task force whose membership possesses so much expertise in the area of school funding. But for me there was one silver lining contained in this document. It refers back, as stated above, to the Adequacy Study as the “North Star” for “guidance on the rate.” The Adequacy Study was groundbreaking in that it put in writing for the first time by the government that the traditional schools were receiving significant dollars in the neighborhood of $100 million a year, in dollars outside of the UPSFF which is against the law. When then, will the FOCUS engineered lawsuit on the inequitable funding of charter schools be resolved?