Funding Disparity Highlights Inequality Between District, Charter Students
Funding disparities between district and charter schools are growing, fueling inequality among public schools that must be addressed if all U.S. students are to be competitive in the global economy. There's a prevailing perception that public charter schools are better funded than district schools. In fact, research shows that the opposite is true, and the myths about charter school resources distract from fruitful discussions on how to achieve resource equity in terms of both funding and facilities. Any discussion of inequity should focus on ensuring that all public school students, whether they attend a district or charter school, have access to the same resources.
Charter school students are public school students who deserve access to the same funding and facilities as students in district schools. In practice, however, only a portion of the money that would fund a student's district-school education follows the student to a public charter school.
An April report from the University of Arkansas details the funding disparity between district and charter schools in 30 states where charters have a big presence and the District of Columbia. On average, charters received $3,814 less per student from state, federal and private funders than district schools received in the 2011 fiscal year, the most recent data the study examined.
In many major cities, the gap was even larger. In Newark, N.J., charter schools faced a disparity of $11,602 per student, one of the largest disparities in the nation. In Trenton, N.J., the disparity was $15,229. New York City's gap was $7,623; in D.C., $12,736; in Detroit, $6,964. District schools even received more private, philanthropic funding than charter schools did, with district schools receiving an average of $571 per pupil, while charters received $552.