The conventional wisdom on that, given the long-standing, cozy relationship Charter Schools have had with the folks in power in Ohio, was the Governor's office wouldn't release projections on Charter School funding because he didn't want to show districts how much more money they would lose to Charters under his plan. Currently, every kid not in a Charter School receives 6.5% less state revenue than the state says they need because of the state's largess to Charters.
However, that conventional wisdom changed this week. Now, there are an increasing number who think that the reason the Governor's office won't release Charter School funding projections is because it will show that Charters will get major cuts, not boosts. And that Gov. Kasich is trying to avoid angering one of his party's most loyal and influential supporters.
If I'm a Charter, there are several reasons why I'm concerned about the Charter School Formula in Kasich's plan.
1) It cuts the foundation amount from about $5,700 per pupil to $5,000 per pupil -- a more than 12% cut from the previous amount Charters received. Even though the state is picking up the full $5,000, unlike school districts, this represents a substantial cut that will have to be made up for in categorical funding.
2) Unlike school districts, Charter Schools will not receive any guarantees that their funding won't drop below previous years' levels. School districts will receive $880 million over the biennium to prevent districts from losing money from last year. However, a similar support was not put into the budget bill for Charters. The guarantee helped prevent about 60% of school districts from getting cut in this budget, and if it went away, districts would be receiving the same formula amount as they did in the 2005-2006 school year. It's fair to assume that without a guarantee in place for Charters, they may be looking at similar cut backs.
3) The economically disadvantaged categorical is very low. At $500 per pupil, the economically disadvantaged base is about 1/3 the national average, according to Students First's testimony last night. Brick and mortar Charters in urban districts could be dramatically affected by this rather anemic compensation for economically disadvantaged kids. Some studies place the actual cost of educating economically disadvantaged kids at 2 to 2-and-a-half times as much as non-economically disadvantaged kids.
Again, despite the fact that there is a Charter School simulator at the Ohio Department of Education's website right now, neither the Department nor the Governor's office have done projections on the new Charter School formula, leaving both Charters and Districts in the dark on a program that this year is costing more than $800 million.
Under the plan, Charter Schools are treated as if they are school districts that raise $0 per pupil on property taxes. The district that has the lowest per pupil valuation in the state in 2014 (and would receive the closest foundation funding levels to Charters) is Trimble in Athens County. They are on the guarantee for 6% of their state revenue. If they were a Charter, that would be a 6% cut because Charters don't get the guarantee.
I don't know if that means anything, but if I'm a Charter School, I'm growing increasingly concerned. The Governor's office could fix this thing pretty easily by doing the runs.
We'll see if that happens before Charter Schools testify this week. It could be exciting.