As a junior, Maggie Tirrell was sitting in the library along the long, rectangular tables with her fellow classmates while her teacher talked about a recent book they would be reading for English. The library was a large, spacious room where many classes were held to provide more space for the lack of classrooms available at Four Rivers Charter Public School. It was a beautiful space with large rows of books to separate a class of fewer than 20 students and provide a space for diligent students at the other side of the library.
However, the shortage of classrooms was causing a undersupply of classes students could take. The only math classes that senior students could take were online or at a local community college, which was paid out-of-pocket by the student. Later that day, the school would be having an alumni/parents night to raise funding to build two more classrooms in the school.
“It was a school that specifically branded itself as project-based learning,” Tirrell said. “They tried to plan as many trips as possible and tried to make external resources as available to us as possible, which required them to do a lot of scrambling for money.”
Since 1992, charter schools have been an opportunity for disadvantaged students who lack access to quality education. They also are more effective educating students than public schools. Unfortunately, people don’t realize how significantly the shortage of funding affects charter schools.
Shortage of funding is a severe problem in New York state. Researchers at the University of Arkansas discovered from their study in 2017 that New York City charter schools received less than 20 percent of funding than public schools. More research has been done to determine more recent data.
According to the Northeast Charter School Network, New York state receives 25 percent less funding than public schools. Western New York has the biggest disparity throughout the rest of the state. In Buffalo, charter schools receive less than 40 percent of funding than their public school counterparts.
Why do charter schools receive less funding?
Charter schools receive less money because public schools enroll more disabled students, who costs more money to effectively educate. In the 2009-2010 school year, charter schools had 8.2 percent of disabled students while public schools held 11.2 percent. From the University of Arkansas report, 16 percent of disabled children accounted for charter school enrollment while they accounted for 18 percent in public schools. But the enrollment numbers don’t explain the funding disparity.
Researchers say that “each of those extra students with disabilities would have to have cost $214,376 more to educate than a general education student for special education obligations in district schools to explain the … funding gap.”
Surprising lack of resources
Low funding for charter schools has caused surprisingly significant issues for facility resources in the last few years. Most charter schools and all Western New York charter schools have to pay 12 to 15 percent of their funds toward facilities that are provided to them. According to a survey released in 10 states by the Charter Schools Facilities Initiative in 2013, about 50 percent of charter schools lack a kitchen that meets health standards to prepare meals. Half of all charter schools in Indiana, Texas and Tennessee lacked access to a gym. Tirrell’s charter school is also another example that lacks a gym for physical education.
More funding to solve the problem
Action has been taken to provide more funding to charter schools to increase school performance. Bill Gates is one of many billionaires to give money to boost charter schools since 2006. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave the Washington Charter Schools Association $25 million to keep struggling charter schools open.
There is also a new program called the New Capital Funds Sharing program that will fund Florida charter schools $91.2 million.
With more funding, students like Tirrell will have more resources for better education.
We need to be on top of where our taxes are going if we want every child to get equal funding for their education. Charter school students need more funding for resources for easier and effective education.
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