Neither charter schools nor traditional district schools are tickled with a bill that would shake up how charter schools are funded, but lawmakers say it's the best options everyone could agree upon.
"I went through and met with both sides of the issue charters and school districts and no one is excited and feel that they have completely won ... we are taking money away from both," Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley, said.
A 2006 audit of Utah charter schools recommended state leaders use the interim to take a look at how to improve charter funding while addressing a funding disparity between charter schools and traditional public schools.
In the 2007 legislative session that recommendation was made, and a committee, made up of charter school leaders, legislators and district chiefs, has been meeting for the past seven months.
HB278 would require school districts to provide an allocation of property tax revenues for each resident student attending a charter school meaning the student's home-district funding would follow him to whatever school he chose to attend, even if it is located outside the district.
Since 2004 charters have received local replacement money from the state in lieu of property taxes because, unlike school districts, charters do not have taxing authority. So the state kicks in that additional funding.
However, the new bill would require charter schools to go back to receiving their funding from school districts, something they were required to do before 2004. Some charter leaders say the old process tended to create an adversarial relationship between charters and school districts, and some fear those feelings will resurface.
While districts will be losing local money to charter school students, charter schools themselves will also be losing money. Currently they are getting more money per student than the funding formula in the bill would yield. But Bigelow said the state will kick in money to make up the difference, at close to $100 per student. But regardless, charters will be operating on funding that is $100 less per student, as they were before.
Leaders say it is going to be tough on all fronts, but the measure allows school districts four years to phase into the new funding configuration."It's not a perfect world, and unfortunately neither side is going to get what we want out of this, but it is the best attempt at parity yet," said Julie Adamic, member of the State Charter School Board. "It's not perfect ... we support this knowing that we aren't getting everything we want, but this is the best solution."
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