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By Kimberly Beltran
Thursday, June 21, 2012
SEE PUBLIC COMMENT BELOW
The move, which stands in conflict with the governor’s revised May spending plan, also came as something of a surprise to charter advocates, who complained this week they had been led to believe the money would be included in the Legislature’s main budget plan.
Instead, said Mark Hedlund, communications director for Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, lawmakers opted to include the $50 million in the “general Proposition 98 pot,” the main source of education funding.
“The Legislature chose to treat all schools equitably, thus [it] didn’t adopt the governor’s proposal to allow growth in the charter school block grant because no growth was provided for traditional schools,” Hedlund said.
Representatives from the California Charter Schools Association, however, said charter schools, already underfunded compared to their traditional public school counterparts, are experiencing significant growth so the funding cut will amount to an additional $100 to $112 per-student reduction in charter schools across the state.
The association, in a news alert posted on its website Monday, accused the Legislature of playing “dirty tricks” and called on its members to lobby the governor’s office for a veto.
A spokesman from the Department of Finance said the administration is still studying the legislative proposal.
“This came out of left field, without notification or transparency,” CCSA Vice President of Government Affairs Cynthia Bryant said Wednesday. “Charter public schools for the first time are being treated differently than the traditional public system. This cut would further exacerbate charter schools’ systematic funding inequity, and we think it is outrageous to treat one set of public school students and their needs differently”
Brown’s budget projects the traditional school growth rate for the coming year to be just .35 percent while charter public schools’ growth rate is projected to be 15.47 percent.
According to Vicky Waters, media relations director at CCSA, more than 10,000 families within the Los Angeles Unified School District alone are on charter school wait lists.
“We’re already experiencing a bad economic situation throughout this state so any additional cut to public schools in general – it shouldn’t even happen – but an additional cut per charter school student of $112, those are real cuts that happen in the classroom and they really impact real students and real people and growth,” said Waters.
Charter schools are funded similarly to the way traditional schools are funded: Base general purpose funding – the largest funding source for both school types, known as revenue limits for traditional schools and as entitlements for charters; in-lieu categorical funding, including the Charter School Block Grant and other flexible categorical programs, and categorical, or restricted, funding, which must be spent on specific goals and programs.
Charter schools received about $6,000 per pupil in 2011-12 in general purpose funding, and $276.5 million through the categorical block grant. The latter amount included an additional $50 million to account for growth – money that was not included in the new legislative budget.
“Traditional schools aren’t growing so [not receiving growth funding] doesn’t have the same impact it has on charter schools,” said CCSA’s Colin Miller.
Whether the issue will be a sticking point in negotiations between Brown, viewed as a charter school supporter, and the Legislature is unknown at this point.
“We are continuing to review the Legislature’s overall Prop. 98 package – it’s still going through the review process,” said Department of Finance’s H.D. Palmer. “That’s all I can say right now.”
CCSA, however, is hoping the governor will stand up for charter schools and insist that the funding is reinstated.
“The governor understands charter public schools and he’s very fair,” Bryant said. “I can’t imagine he’s going to be very happy to have charter public schools treated differently.”
A report issued in January by the Legislative Analyst’s Office found that compared to traditional public schools, charter schools already receive on average $395 less per student.
PUBLIC COMMENTFrom V. Richmond, taxpayer: I think that the legislature should stop playing sides under the appearance of being fair. If the legislature wants to eliminate charters then it should be bold enough to state it outright instead of hiding behind budget maneuvers. Lawmakers also need to remember who they are supposed to be representing (the people in their districts) instead of the special interests and parties they are affiliated with. I am not so sure that the people they are supposed to be representing would agree with them trying to eliminate the educational choices that are available for their children. I would say this especially for the parents of children in socioeconomically disadvantaged parts of the state. In those areas many traditional public schools have been failing miserably and charter schools have provided parents with a viable educational option for their children.
For anyone who would disagree that charters are a viable educational option I would remind them that a charter school won the Academic Decathlon and that one of the California Distinguished Schools is also a charter school. Furthermore I would also remind people that many of the districts have much lower API scores than the charter schools they authorize.
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