Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, has over 20 years of experience working in education, including work with the U.S. Department of Education. On her blog for U.S. News & World Report, Nina showed support for the filing of Brown v. New York.
While all eyes in New York are on a lawsuit challenging teacher tenure, another suit stands to have an even larger impact on the future of the state’s low-income and minority students – and it could set a precedent for other states. Five families in Buffalo and Rochester have filed suit challenging the state’s persistent underfunding of public charter schools. The Northeast Charter Schools Network is assisting the families with the suit, which seeks equal funding for all public school students, whether they attend a charter school or a traditional district school.
The gap in funding between the two types of public schools is sometimes startling. In Buffalo, charter schools receive about $9,800 less per pupil than district schools; in Rochester the gap is about $6,600. This difference is largely due to the fact that charter schools, unlike district schools, have to pay for their facilities costs. Renting space, changing light bulbs and keeping the plumbing in working order all diverts money that should be used for instruction.
Because charters serve a higher proportion of students from low-income and minority families than district schools do, these students are more likely to be hurt by unequal funding. In New York, 90 percent of charter school students are students of color.
Sadly, the funding situation in New York is common across America. Researchers from the University of Arkansas recently revealed that after 20 years of chartering, funding gaps between charters and district schools exist in most states. Across 30 states and the District of Columbia, charter schools receive 28 percent less funding than other public schools, a gap of more than $3,800 per pupil.
What’s most distressing about the funding gap in New York is that the state’s charters are among the best in the nation. They’ve helped students from underprivileged backgrounds score at the top of statewide achievement tests, and they’ve put college within reach of students who never would have dreamed of it before entering a charter school. Charters are no longer experiments; they are part of the fabric of the school system. They deserve equal funding.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, took a bold stance earlier this year by ensuring that new or expanding charters in New York City will get access to public school facilities at no charge, or have the city subsidize their school space. This will help to narrow the funding gap for some city schools. But nearly 70 existing charter schools in New York City that currently pay for their own space stand to benefit from the decision in the Buffalo-Rochester case as well. And all New York charter school students, whether in the city or upstate, deserve the same level of support that their district school counterparts receive.
Lawsuits can bring to light some of the glaring inequalities in the way public schools are funded in America. But policymakers shouldn’t wait for courts to force their hand. Cuomo and the state legislature should finish the good work they started by making sure every public school student in New York gets fair funding.
This article originally appeared on U.S. News & World Report.
Do you like this post?