Baltimore Charter Schools Seek Funding Equal to District Schools

in NEWS FROM THE ACCESS NETWORK

On September 10, a group of Baltimore charter school operators filed suit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City against the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners over what they claim is the city’s inequitable and inadequate funding of charter schools.

The charter operators’ claims, at their core, are about the city of Baltimore’s approach to funding charter schools.  According to the complaint, the Maryland State Board of Education, as affirmed by the Maryland Court of Appeals, has interpreted Education Article Sec. 9-109 of Maryland’s statutes to require school boards to provide equal per-pupil funding to charter and traditional schools. The charter operators allege that this statutory requirement is explicitly embedded in their governing agreements with the city, and that it obligates the city to “provide openness and transparency” in the calculation and distribution of funding to charter schools.

According to school district officials, a strict per capita funding allocation for all schools would not take into account the extra costs of educating at risk students, English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities, of whom there are proportionally fewer in charter schools. The funding issue came to a head this year when the district authorized a per-pupil allocation for charters that lowered funding for a number of charter schools, despite an increase in the overall system’s budget. The charter schools’ complaint alleges the district has never explained how it calculates per-pupil costs and refuses to share a detailed accounting of the administrative and other expenses it deducts from its overall budget.

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