In reality, this would make Buffalo's financial condition worse by costing the district more money - obviously not what Rumore had in mind. This is because charter school students are counted as district enrollment for state school aid purposes. Any state takeover of charter funding would remove these students from the district's aid count, and correspondingly lower state aid by more than Buffalo's charter spending.
The truth is that Buffalo is getting more than 80 percent of its budget financed by state taxpayers through school aid. If any other school district comes close to this lopsidedly favorable percentage, I'm not aware. Yet folks like Rumore and others in the district keep pleading poverty. An aid ratio this high enables the district to make money on charter school students since they cost less per student than the state aid they generate for the district.
One counter argument I've heard is that the "save harmless" provision in state aid would never allow school aid to drop for Buffalo if the state assumed the charter expense and lowered the enrollment count. I would not bet on this since the state--especially in tough fiscal times--is highly unlikely to pay double for the same students in perpetuity.
In 2007, the state enacted a new school aid revenue for districts called "transition aid for charter school payments" which pays extra to districts like Buffalo for added charter school enrollment, with such payments phased out over a four-year period. This extra aid helps school districts adjust to new charter expenses, over and above the aid they already receive for charter enrollment. Unfortunately, it didn't stop districts from complaining even though they have been paid nearly twice the aid levels for charter students.
More money is never enough for some when it comes to school district competition from charter schools.
"Equal" Funding Among School Districts?
As long as school districts levy property taxes, education funding will never be "equal" among all districts. Wealthier districts will decide how much they want to contribute to their public school systems, and that will always exceed poor districts. Low-wealth school districts get more state aid per pupil to mitigate the funding gap, but the gap will always exist. The key for the legislature is to ensure that low-wealth districts get a requisite amount for students to get a quality education. How much this amounts to is what legislatures debate each and every year.
for The Chalkboard
Disclaimer: The Chalkboard is hosted by the New York Charter Schools Association (NYCSA) as a place where members, public education advocates and others can view and respond to informed commentary on timely public education and charter school issues. The views expressed here are not necessarily the official views of the NYCSA, its board, or of any of its individual charter school members. Anyone who claims otherwise is violating the spirit and purpose of this blog. To comment on anything you read here, or to offer tips, advice, comments, or complaints. please contact TheChalkboard.