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State Board May Consider Charter School Funding at February Meeting

The full State Board of Education (SBE) will get a report on Wednesday, February 3, from its Legislation and Bylaws committee regarding a proposal for a “money follows the child” funding model for charter schools that would siphon money from traditional public schools.

It is one of two competing proposals considered in recent months by the SBE to revise how Connecticut’s charter schools are funded. The first proposal— the “money follows the child” funding — would require districts to pay a set “tuition rate” for each child who enrolls in a charter school from their district. The second proposal is to increase the direct, per-pupil state grant for charter schools from $9,300 per pupil to $10,306 per pupil.

SBE’s Legislation and Bylaws Committee held a special workshop in Hartford on January 27 to discuss the  “money follows the child” funding proposal for charter schools. The full SBE voted three weeks ago to approve a proposed increase in the state’s per-pupil grant funding for charter schools, but postponed any decision on the “money follows the child” funding  model until its Legislation and Bylaws Committee could review and discuss its impact.

The “money follows the child” funding proposal – pushed by a private group that operates several Connecticut charter schools — has ominous consequences for local school budgets. Under this proposal, funding for a student to attend a charter school would be deducted from the sending school district’s state Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant payment.

While the committee on January 27 discussed the ‘money follows the child” funding proposal, at the end of the meeting members decided not to vote on it. Instead, committee members reached a consensus to recommend to the full SBE that the current system the state uses to finance its public schools needs a drastic overhaul to provide equity to all students. When the committee makes its report on February 3, potentially, the “money follows the child” funding  proposal could come up for further discussion by the full board.

During their discussions, committee members expressed concerns about the significant amount of money the state would have to commit to charter schools to finance the “money follows the child” funding proposal with the state facing a nearly half billion dollar budget deficit. The gaping hole created in local school budgets by diverting state funds to charter schools also troubled committee members. Half of Stamford’s ECS funds, for example, would be wiped out under such a proposal.

The committee received an analysis of what state charter schools receive in funding under current state law from State Department of Education (SDE) Legal and Government Affairs attorney Jennifer Widness and SDE Chief Financial Officer Brian Mahoney. Their analysis showed that as a group, many charter schools already receive more money per pupil than local schools when comparing state and local funding. Charter schools also can compete with local districts for federal funds and can seek contributions from private organizations and foundations.

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