Public Schools in DC Better Funded Than Charters, Says Report

In the fall of last year education finance expert Mary Levy was hired by D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi to analyze the funding of public and public charter schools in the district.

The subsequent ‘Levy Report’ revealed that DCPS received operating funds of between $72 million and $127 million a year that weren’t available to charter schools.

Bill Turque at the Washington Post reports that DCPS receives the money by the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula, the legal mechanism designed to ensure that all public and public charter school students are funded equally. The current “base” amount is $8,943 per student.

Some of the extra has come from mid-year appropriations to cover DCPS overspending — like the $21 million Mayor Vincent Gray proposed to give the system last month.

Other money is attributed from differences in budgeting practices. The DCPS is funded each spring for the following school year. This money is based on enrollment projections; however, if the actual enrollment is lower than projected, the system’s budget is not reduced and the school pockets the money. Charters, on the other hand, are funded based on actual enrollment – and if the number declines, installments are cut.

Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS) executive director Robert Cane and Ramona Edelin, executive director of the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools, said:

“These payments violate the requirement of D.C. law that DCPS and the public charter schools receive equal funding on a per-student basis. They also violate principles of equity, which require that we give each of our school children an equal chance to succeed regardless of which public school he or she attends.”

Levy’s report also reveals that charters are often excluded from services DCPS are given by other state institutions without charge.

“The Metropolitan Police Department, for example, has 46 “resource officers” assigned to help with security at DC public schools, but only 11 at public charters.”

Levy also claims that the Department of Mental Health has 30 full-time specialists serving non-special education students at 41 public schools. There are no such specialists in D.C. charter schools.

Using the Levy report as guidance, FOCUS believes an allowance of $3,000 per student should be given to charters. They also recommend a construction cost inflation escalator to help charters get bank financing for redevelopments.