(The Center Square) – In 2019-20 public charter schools received 27% less per student funding than traditional public schools in Los Angeles Unified School District, new research says.
Lead researcher and report author Patrick Wolf of the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform and his research team has released a report on charter school inequity in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Wolf has been leading the effort to analyze funding disparities between public charter schools and Traditional Public Schools in multiple cities for over a decade.
The funding gap between Charter schools and traditional schools declined from 40% in 2013-2014, prior to the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula.
Over time, funding inequities in the charter sector in comparison to traditional schools were discovered. Schools in Los Angeles have been a component of all studies which have been conducted for over 2 decades, and so the difference became noticeable.
Since 2002-03 the funding gap at 29% grew to 40%; in 2013-14 when Local Control Funding Formula policy was introduced with an aim for fair funding, there was an immediate positive effect and the disparity shrank from 40% to 22% in two fiscal years. It didn’t close the gap completely. Then, in fiscal year 2017-18 it rose to 26% and again to 27% for 2019-20.
Wolfe clarified the formula “is a policy model consistent with what we often recommend conceptually for funding public schools and that is attempting to channel as many revenue streams as possible into a fair per pupil formula.”
“We have evidence that confirms that the remaining funding gap of 27% is not driven by student demographics or differential student needs,” Wolfe confirmed.
The funding gap is approximately the same across all seven of the LAUSD School Board Districts. It is not a localized problem within LAUSD, it is a systemic problem for the charter school sector in the entire city according to the researchers.
The two school types serve very similar populations across a number of measures LAUSD however serve a higher percentage of early childhood students, whereas charter schools serve a higher percentage of high school students. Both however are more expensive-to-serve demographics.
TPS sector receive more dollars at over $20,000 per pupil; Charters receive slightly less than $15,000 per student, leaving a $5,225 per pupil gap.
“This debunks the myth that charter schools are rolling in philanthropic dollars,” Heape said.