Council backs boost in charter facilities fee
The District's public charter schools, which have long held that they are shortchanged on funding compared to DCPS, would get a bit more money for rent, mortgage and other facilities costs under a recommendation Tuesday from the D.C. Council.
Both public and public charter schools receive equal financing under the uniform per student funding formula, which is expected to be $8,945 in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
But unlike public schools, most of District's 57 charter schools, spread across 99 campuses with 28,000 students, come into existence without a publicly financed building waiting for them. So they receive a per pupil facilities allotment to cover their extra costs. Sitting as the Committee of the Whole, the council recommended that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty raise the uniform per pupil fee from $2,800 to $3,000.
The Fenty administration cut the allotment from $3,109 last year, asserting that some schools have been diverting the facilities payments to cover other costs, such as teacher salaries. The mayor is recommending that the allotment remain at $2,800. Charter advocates say D.C. public schools enjoy significant streams of funding outside the uniform per student formula, including an enormous capital budget.
A working group of charter and District officials wanted $3,235, but Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray that only $3,000 is feasible. The hike would cost $868,000, most of which would come from money that had been set aside to service the District's debt.
The facilities fee boost is not likely to quell the debate over funding equity. Charter school supporters say they are concerned that the proposed new D.C. teachers contract, which would provide a 5-year, 20 percent raise and -- if a privately financed performance pay provision is implemented, boost some salaries well beyond the $100,000 range -- will add to their financial disadvantage.
Attorney General Peter Nickles pushed back on that argument Tuesday. Responding to a query from Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Nickles wrote that because the base salary increases are funded through the uniform per pupil formula, the contract creates no new financial obligations for the District.
"Charter schools will receive the same uniform per student funding amount that the mayor has proposed in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget and can use that amount (or any other funds) to provide the teacher raises they deem appropriate," Nickles wrote.
Barnaby Towns, a spokesman for the charter advocacy group FOCUS ( Friends of Choice in Urban Education) called Nickles' letter "the standard administration line" that ignores the inequities out side the funding formula.
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