Patricia Brantley, the chief executive officer of Friendship Public Charter School, and Irene Holtzman, the executive director of Friends of Choice in Urban Schools, wrote an excellent editorial that appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post regarding the recent decision by a federal judge throwing out the funding inequity lawsuit brought by charters against the city. It makes the point that if you were to see children playing on a public park equally enjoying the amenities you would have no idea that, when it comes to their education, there is a substantial difference regarding the funding the school they are enrolled in receives depending upon whether it is a part of DCPS or a charter.
Charters receive less money. Much less. The disparity in revenue is estimated to have equaled $770 million from 2008 to 2015. This corresponds to $1,600 to $2,600 fewer dollars per student per year.
The fundamental problem, and it is truly fundamental, is that the regular schools are provided revenue and services by the Mayor or the city council outside of the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula. But the 1995 School Reform Act, which dictates how schools cover operating expenses, could not be clearer on the mechanism for providing taxpayer money to all public schools:
“Annual payment under paragraph (1) of this subsection shall be calculated by multiplying a uniform dollar amount used in the formula established under such paragraph by:
(A) The number of students calculated under § 38-1804.02 that are enrolled at District of Columbia public schools, in the case of the payment under paragraph (1)(A) of this subsection; or
(B) The number of students calculated under § 38-1804.02 that are enrolled at each public charter school, in the case of a payment under paragraph (1)(B) of this subsection.”
In other words, revenue for both DCPS and charters is to be provided by law though the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula based upon a dollar amount multiplied by the number of kids enrolled.
Because the law, and the intention behind the law, are so clear, charters really have no choice but to appeal the court’s decision. They cannot give up because people involved in our local charter movement never give up. These are the same individuals who find teachers when there are none to be had, obtain facilities when no buildings are available, and make payroll when the bank account has been expended. I have known these brave souls for more than 20 years. I have been on the other end of the telephone line when it appeared all hope of continuing was lost, only to find them fighting to keep going for another day.
Over 41,500 pupils, 47 percent of all public school students, are depending upon them not giving up.
One judge made one bad decision. So what? There are plenty more judges out there.