School Districts Would Have To Share More With Charter Schools Under Revived Bill

Jun 10, 2016

Lawmakers in the state House are discussing a bill that would require school districts to share more money with charter schools.
Credit Jess Clark / WUNC

Lawmakers in the state House have renewed efforts to direct more money from school districts to charter schools.

While school districts share most of their local dollars with charter schools, there are some funds they can keep to themselves. These include private donations, grants and federal dollars districts get for providing services like school lunches or transportation. Lawmakers are discussing a bill that would require districts to share those funds, too.

Most charters get fewer dollars per pupil than traditional public schools. Proponents, like charter school founder Pamela Blizzard, say the bill makes student spending more equal.

In a House education committee meeting, Blizzard pointed to the discrepancy between the average per-pupil expenditure in Durham County Schools of around $10,600 and that of Research Triangle High School, a charter school she founded in Durham County.

"Our funding is at $8,300," she said. "So that's a pretty striking difference."

Several lawmakers spoke out against the measure. Rep. Chris Whitmire (R-Transylvania) said Henderson County Schools stands to loose almost $1 million if the bill passes.

Guilford County Schools board member Linda Welborn also opposes the measure. She told lawmakers the change would be unfair because it would require school districts to share reimbursements they get for participating in federal programs charter schools may not be participating in, such as free and reduced lunch, bussing and services for disadvantaged students.

"What is the logic in providing charter schools funding for something they have no association with?" she asked.

Welborn added that charters can apply for their own federal grants and seek out their own private donations.

Lee Teague of the North Carolina Public Charter Schools Association says that's not always the case.

"Charter schools don't have the back-office operations that an LEA [local education agency, or school district] does,' Teague said. "They don't have fulltime grant writers for instance. And so they're not able to do it for practical reasons."

In addition, Teague said the dollar impact of the bill would be minimal for school districts, but would significantly benefit charter schools.

The measure was originally introduced towards the end of last years' session when a bill concerning playground use was gutted and amended to include the language. The measure passed the Senate and had been sent back to a House committee.