Stop Shortchanging Students

Nearly one in five charter schools (17 percent) have to delay their school opening date by a year or more due to facilities related issues. – CSFI 

GeorgiaCAN is putting equitable funding at the top of their list this year! In a recent blog post, the organization discusses their top priorities and why. Recently the organization pulled together parents, students, charter schools leaders and other stakeholders from across the state to help pass House Bill 430. This bill was drafted to help improve Georgia’s charter school facilities. Many stakeholders were shocked to learn that the cost and maintenance of facilities is a huge barrier. Several charter schools in Georgia are in older, previously closed school buildings and/or struggle finding an updated facility to educate children. There are a few charter school networks in Metro Atlanta like Ivy Prep Academy that have a financial bond for the facility occupied. There are other schools that spend at least $800,000+ annually just for the facility alone. This doesn’t factor in maintenance costs for the facility, insurance, etc.  Here’s a little known fact from CSFI: The majority of charter schools (53 percent) are renting or leasing space from a non-profit organization or a commercial entity. It’s hard operating a charter school that serves as the central office, while managing and maintaining the facility and operating a school program. Operating a charter school is not easy and it’s definitely much harder without adequate funding.  I salute GeorgiaCAN’s advocacy for funding to be included in the FY2019 budget because we must stop short-changing students in Charter schools with inequitable funding. Here’s why equitable funding for charter schools matters:

  1. It effects the quality of facilities
  2. It impacts the ability for charter schools to provide transportation
  3. It improves instructional resources

We are funded between $1,800 and $6,400 less per student, with the average difference being $3800. That difference amounts to over $2.1 million. – Kylie Holley 

Charter schools struggle with managing and maintaining facilities. It’s not because of talent but funding. Space, technology, plumbing, nutrition programs and cafeterias, updating building heating and air units, school beautification and many other things under facilities are challenging to maintain when school leaders have to decide between getting these things done or if they’re going to provide exceptional instructional resources. Yes, not having adequate funding has an effect on decisions regarding expansions for schools that don’t have enough room, updating security systems which are critically important with the increase of school shootings or improving infrastructure issues that charter schools inherit from previously closed traditional public schools. The overarching question is, if charter schools are taking over closed traditional public schools, then why were the facilities allowed to reach such condemnable conditions? Just because a school’s academic performance declines doesn’t mean resources and funding should also decline. Therefore school districts and State Departments of Education play a huge role in the process of equitable funding for charter schools. Charter schools are still public education options and all schools having equitable funding is a priority. It is time for us to ensure that equitable resources and funding our provided to our schools for our children.

Funding impacts transportation. I believe that any parent has the right to choose which school program works best for their child regardless of where they live. Parents shouldn’t be punished because of their social economic status or not being able to afford transportation. If parents don’t have transportation to get their child(ren) to and from school then it becomes a barrier. Attendance and enrollment are heavily impacted by transportation. There are some Charter schools like Latin College Prep in Metro Atlanta who provide buses for their families. This is not a norm in schools of choice. Many Charter networks aren’t able to financially carry the cost of providing transportation.

It is time out for us cutting corners with funding for schools! Title I cannot be the main budget for academic resources in schools. This is the case with many schools and school districts. The Title I budget is the largest budget in the school. There is also the challenges and questions of non Title I schools. If there’s no Title I funding, then how do these schools get additional academic resources? This is why funding formulas must be improved to help schools provide state of the art technology and academic resources for all students. We cannot continue to accept and allow any school to not have adequate funding and resources because of laws that just simply don’t make sense for the educational work happening in schools now. Schools thrive with quality instructional resources.  Parents, students and stakeholders must stand up and say, NO to short-changing students.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.

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