Selected readings on US charter schools
Mark Twain popularized the saying that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics. People will often use numbers to bolster an argument or legitimize a point of view. Sadly, I believe Glenn Mesa, in his columns on charter schools, has utilized this trick.
If I could make one thing clear, it would be that charter schools are public schools. The Legislature does not have an agenda to dismantle public education with public education. Charter schools are public schools! Charter schools were created to test new and innovative educational concepts and create competition to better the educational environment for all students.
Just recently, Mike Martineau, a senior researcher in the economics department at the University of Utah, found that district schools within 10 miles of one or more charter schools saw a boost in their test scores. In short, competition, as in all industries, benefits everyone. His full report will be published this summer.
Mr. Mesa has utilized a number of reports to illustrate points but sadly has not fully understood the data that he was using. The most important item to rebut would be the misunderstood Local Replacement Funding. District schools are funded by income taxes and property taxes. Both are essential to the operations, maintenance and physical facilities that we use in this state. Mr. Mesa must believe that charter schools also receive both income and property tax to fund their operations; however, they do not.
Charter school students receive the income tax allocations in the same way that district schools do. If a student attends a district school, they receive a WPU (weighted pupil unit or income tax allocation). If a student attends a charter school, they receive a WPU. However, district schools also receive money from the property tax. Charter schools do not assess property taxes and, therefore, do not receive any property tax dollars.
The Legislature recognized that charter schools would not be able to function without some funding to replace the amount of property tax dollars received by district schools. The Legislature created the Local Replacement Fund, which, by statutory formula, essentially creates a statewide average of the appropriate property tax, levies and creates a mechanism to appropriate those dollars to charter schools. Because this money is appropriated from the Legislature instead of through a property tax notice, there are line items in the state budget.
The local replacement funding is a significant line item to charter schools in much the same way that the property tax levy is significant to the district. In reality, charter schools still receive fewer overall dollars per student than the district does per student despite the fact that both district school parents and charter school parents both pay the same relative amounts into the system.
The obvious is obvious. Charter schools are providing an enormous benefit and value to the state of Utah. They are developing innovative new methods, testing different accountability and employment models, and benefiting the district schools by providing competition.
Source: The Spectrum – by Chris Bleak is with the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools