(Updated 6:10 p.m.) As part of his education focused budget address, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will propose increasing charter, magnet, and vocational school funding.
And while most of his proposals have been agreeable to lawmakers, the increase in charter school funding could cause some discord amongst some constituencies.
Malloy’s plan will increase per pupil funding for charter schools by $11.1 million. That will bring the per-pupil funding for charter schools from $9,400 to $11,000. And local districts will now be required to pay $1,000 for each student it sends to a charter school. It also includes funding for five new state charter schools and increases per pupil funding for magnet schools by $5 million.
The proposal was first reported by the CT Post Sunday was confirmed by a spokesman in the governor’s office Monday.
The proposal will allow the number of charter schools to grow from 17 to 22 and will allow local school districts to start counting charter school students standardized test scores with their own.
In exchange charter schools will have to demonstrate they are actively recruiting students with special needs, English-language learners, and other low performing students. Public school advocates have complained charter schools avoid those types of students and that‘s why their test scores are often better.
Patrick Riccards, CEO of ConnCAN, said he thinks the proposal is a “positive step forward in bringing equity to all Connecticut school children.”
However, he said it still doesn’t get charter school funding up to the state per pupil average.
The state average per pupil cost is $14,551. In districts which currently host charter schools it’s about $12,690. He said districts which currently send students to charter schools get to keep all of the per pupil funding the state sends them. He said he doesn’t believe giving up $1,000 will be too much of a hardship for many of the districts.
“The incentives and increase in funding for charter schools is a positive step in the right direction,” Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, said. “We should consider and support every means possible to improve the quality of education for children particularly in persistently failing schools.”
But there are others who will likely disagree with the funding approach.
Jim Finley, executive director and CEO of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said only 8 percent of students attend charter and magnet schools, while 92 percent attend traditional public schools. He said some of the lower performing school districts will likely have trouble finding $1,000 per student to help send more students to charter schools.
As it is right now the Education Cost Sharing formula is underfunded by $800 million, Finley said.
The proposal was largely praised by the state’s two teacher unions for increasing the per pupil funding for a variety of schools including charters, magnets, vocational technical schools, vocational agricultural schools, and CommPACT schools.
They were also heartened by the idea that charter schools would also have to accept a larger segment of the student population.
“It appears we’re moving in the right direction,” Mary Loftus Levine, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, said Monday.
But she said she knows there will be concern amongst some “cash strapped districts” who may find it difficult to find the additional funding.
She said the Education Cost Sharing Task Force of which she is a member hasn’t reached any conclusions yet.
“We find it noteworthy that the governor wants to divert precious local education dollars to promote local district charter schools—an undertaking that cities and towns have not embraced to date under the weight of increased local demands and diminished resources,” Levine said. “As a member of the state ECS Task Force, I express sincere caution at the governor’s proposal to take funding from already strapped neighborhood schools and direct it to new charter schools.”
Sharon Palmer, president of AFT Connecticut, said she’s also pleased the governor’s proposal requires new charter schools to include students with special needs.
“If we are truly committed to improving education in Connecticut, it must be for every child, not just a select few,“ Palmer said. “We would like to see these requirements expanded to encompass all charter schools in Connecticut. We think this is a good starting point for discussion and look forward to seeing the legislation.”
Meanwhile, Malloy’s plan also offers incentives districts to open their own charter schools with an offer of $3,000 per pupil in state funding and a $500,000 start-up grant.
“Charter schools provide families with options within the public school system, options that can be a real asset in targeting those students who have had trouble achieving success in other schools,” Malloy said Monday in a press release.
Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, who helped found the Amistad Academy in New Haven, said “The best charter school models help to close the achievement gap, so it makes good sense that the governor’s plan channels charter energy to the places it’s needed most – our lowest performing districts – as well as to the students who need the most attention and greatest opportunity.”