Last month, the District of Columbia’s CFO discovered a nice chunk of unexpected revenue, some $42 million, had come the city’s way. The mayor promptly called for half of the money to go to the District’s public schools. In apparent disregard of the law, however, the mayor wants to give the whole $21M windfall to DCPS, bailing them out for a loss of federal funding and mismanagement of the district’s food service and merit pay programs. See Bill Turque’s characterization of the budget holes this bailout will fill:
DCPS said the extra $21.4 million budgeted by Gray is needed to address several issues: Congressional cuts in federal payments ($4.5 million); overruns in food service caused by higher labor and food costs and lower federal reimbursements ($10.7 million); mandated merit-based salary increases for teachers ($2.8 million); and the rising cost of excessed non-instructional employees who were removed from school budgets but are being carried on the central office books.
Privately, senior Gray administration officials said DCPS finances have historically been plagued by cost overruns, attributable to persistent overspending by school system leadership and weak oversight by Gandhi’s office.
Charter sector leaders in D.C. are incensed that DCPS is getting a huge payout to fill budget holes while they get nothing. They’re right to be angry. In the hands of charter school leaders, these funds could go to building new programs to help the 40-plus percent of the city’s students educated outside DCPS.
Charter sector leaders in D.C. are incensed that DCPS is getting a huge payout to fill budget holes while they get nothing.
It also shows
State Rep. Matt Huffman is trying to build support for a promising effort to expand private school vouchers to more working-class families in Ohio. In order to appease recalcitrant school districts, whose executives vocally oppose the measure, he may remove any benefit youngsters in wealthier districts could hope to get out of the program, however.
Originally, the bill would have granted vouchers of up to $4,626 based on a family’s economic circumstances. But managers in more than 300 school districts have complained about the possible loss of state and local funding, apparently afraid of competition for students’ dollars from the parochial school down the block. Huffman now wants to limit the amount of each voucher to the total per-pupil aid the child’s school district receives from the state. This means that children in property-rich suburbs, where a growing number of poor families are concentrated, could get just a few hundred bucks a year when they leave for a private school, while many thousands of dollars stay with the school district.
It’s hard to imagine a worse trade-off: Districts get to keep the cash without providing services, while poor and working-class parents in the ‘burbs are forced to scrimp and save even more than their urban counterparts to have some measure of control over their children’s education. Choice-friendly legislators and advocacy groups in Ohio should ask themselves, who are the state’s education dollars intended to benefit: school budget officers, or kids?
As school levies fail across central Ohio, I am concerned and disappointed to see so many school districts quickly threaten to reduce the quality of our children’s education. Providing an excellent education for our children may be the single most important thing we can do as responsible citizens.
To give hope to our children in tough economic times, we must learn to do more with less. When I read the statement made by Westerville’s school-board president, “We’ll be looking at state-minimum requirements,” I lost confidence in the leadership of the district in which I live. As the operator of the Columbus Collegiate Academy, a charter school on the Near East Side, I run a school on a shoestring budget. Unlike traditional district schools, we don’t have access to local property-tax dollars.
When I see levies on the ballot, I can only dream about what we could do for our students, 94 percent of whom are minorities and 88 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged, with additional revenue. Although it is unlikely we ever will receive public revenue at the same level as others, we would never settle for providing our students with “state-minimum requirements.”
Instead of slighting our
Florida deserves kudos for protecting about $55 million in funding for charter facilities in the face of budget cuts, but they're catching a lot of flak from traditional school advocates, EdWeek reports:
School district officials across Florida are bemoaning the Legislature's decision to cut traditional public schools out of?PECO?the Public Education Capital Outlay program. The state's 350 charter schools will share $55 million, while the approximately 3,000 traditional schools will go without.
"Every cent allocated for school construction went to charter schools," complained Lee Swift, a Charlotte County school board member who heads the Florida School Boards Association.
Swift said lawmakers should focus on "properly funded traditional schools" instead of pressing for more charters that drain resources from the traditional schools.
Charters are growing around the state, however, and many districts are stagnating or losing enrollment. Districts have also been flush with cash for construction in recent years even as charters have received less funding. Last year's Ball State report on charter funding inequity states that districts in Florida "encumber funds or withhold local sources from total funds available before providing charter schools with their 'fair share.'" Charters were already getting a raw deal before this measure was passed.
Florida has done the sensible thing by protecting a growing and historically underfunded sector of its education system.?Traditional public schools will continue to tap local sources for construction and maintenance, revenues that charters don't have access to. Cutting all schools equally, or
- Stretching the School Dollar
- Common Core Watch
- Ohio Gadfly Daily
- Board's Eye View
- Choice Words
About the Editor
Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
Chris Tessone was a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow and the Director of Finance of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. He has strong interests in governance and education finance, especially teacher compensation and school facilities finance.