D.C. charters about to spend 25K per pupil; they want more

In March, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser released her proposed fiscal year 2023 budget. As she has done consistently during her tenure as the city’s chief administrator, Ms. Bowser has increased the Uniform Per Student Funding formula, the baseline that determines how much a school is paid to educate a child for a year, this time by a gigantic 5.87 percent. Her recommendations also include a 2.2 percent jump in the charter school facility allotment. With these augmentations, assuming that the same number of students enroll next term as did in 2022, then the amount that the District spends on teaching one student each term enrolled in a charter school is approximately $24,500. According to the Education Data Initiative, in this country only New York State, at $25,500 per student, spends more.

An organization called DC Students Succeed, a group of over forty groups that work with children, including many charter schools and the DC Charter School Alliance, say the Mayor has not gone far enough. They have a number of recommendations. They call on the Council to add more cash to the UPSFF. The per pupil facility allotment should go up by 3.1 percent. They also want the at-risk weight to improve to 0.37, a number included in the 2013 Adequacy Study, as opposed to the 0.2 number advanced by the Mayor. By the way, the coalition views the term “at-risk” as “pejorative, inaccurate, and inadequate.” They would rather it be changed to “equity weight.”

But wait, there is more. Some schools lack mental health clinicians. A new citywide center is needed for immigrant students so they can navigate our public education system. Increased funding should be allocated for training Black and brown professionals to go into teaching. A program should be created to reduce teacher student loan debt. Initiate a Homeowner Resource Center to steer educators toward affordable housing programs. Form a Public Educator Housing Assistance Program similar to the existing District Employer Assisted Housing Program. Add money to Out-of-School programs to the tune of $25 million. The list is frankly exhausting. You can read the fifteen page details of the requests here.

The calls for more money comes as The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is running television advertisements attacking the U.S. Education Department’s proposed new rules around its charter school support programs. Commented president and CEO Nina Rees, about the move, “This is a sneak attack on charter schools that is politically motivated by special interests seeking to benefit the adults in the system and not the children and families in our country who are clamoring for better education opportunities. Why is the Biden Administration listening to everyone except families?”

If these stipulations are enacted I have no doubt that they will severely limit if not completely block charters from accessing the $440 million annually appropriated by Congress toward new school openings and expansion. However, the commercials make it appear that somehow our movement is entitled to these grants. I would much rather see alternatives to the federal government for financial support. When dependent on the government it is simply too easy for politics to get in the way, which is exactly what we are seeing in this case. The conversation around charters really needs to be focused on improving the quality of public education. With all this talk about money, it appears that the box that the child is standing on to watch the baseball game in the infamous equity cartoon is filled with dollar bills.

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