Charter school funding contested

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Charter schools now receive the same funds as a public school district, with the exclusion of referendum revenue. That could change.

HF1860, sponsored by Rep. Kelby Woodard (R-Belle Plaine), proposes that referendum revenue be transferred in an equal amount for each student that attends a charter school in his or her resident school district. This increase for charter schools’ general education aid would be offset by a corresponding decrease in the resident school districts’ general education aid. This would affect Minnesota schools beginning in fiscal year 2014.

Heard by the House Education Finance Committee, the bill was laid over for possible inclusion in a later bill. It has no Senate companion.

Charter school officials spoke in favor of the bill, arguing that their students are being punished for exercising their right to choose which school they attend.

Woodard defended the bill, saying, “The way I look at it is, we as Minnesotans want to educate those kids and we ought to give them the opportunity to do that. There shouldn’t be a consequence for attending a charter school. … We can all agree that’s a good experience for Minnesota kids.”

Testifiers from public school districts disagreed, saying that they offer services, such as transportation, that charter schools do not that require additional funding. They allege that the funding reform would cost districts hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) echoed that response. “The deal was that charter schools get less money because they would need less money, because they didn’t have the rules and regulations of [public] schools. … It’s a zero sum game and we don’t want to be party to it. I think it does point out, though, that there isn’t enough money for schools.”