I found something I’ve never seen before last week. Ironically enough, I discovered these documents when I was doing my charter school inspection. I was working on this article when I received a call about the the topic we have all been talking about for the past week: charter school payments from school districts. Every year, around March, the Delaware Department of Education produces a report called the “Educational Statistics Report”. This report shows district and charter revenue and expense totals for each calendar year. It also shows information I’ve been looking for but haven’t seen until now: how much each charters get from local school districts for students who attend from those feeder patterns. In FY2015, local school districts sent an astonishing $63.5 million dollars to charter schools. This accounts for 38% of Delaware charter schools revenue.
According to this report, the charter school that gets the most local revenue is the charter school with the largest student population. Newark Charter School, with the largest student population, received $7 million from local school districts in FY2015. The State of Delaware provided over twice the amount to Newark Charter ($14.7 million) compared to the next largest charter school, MOT ($7.1 million).
But where things get really interesting is when you compare revenue and expenses with traditional school districts.
Charter Revenue FY2015
District Revenue FY2015
Charter Expenses FY2015
District Expenses FY2015
In FY2015, charter school students represented 9.3% of Delaware’s public schools. With a total of 12,521 students, this represented less than 10% of students in the state who chose this option. The total revenue they received was a little over $164 million dollars. By contrast, districts received over $2.16 billion dollars in revenue. This is a total of $2.32 billion dollars in revenue between district and charter schools. In the interest of fairness and all things being equal, charters should have received $215.8 million dollars at 9.3% student population. Instead, they received $50 million less. If we stopped looking at figures right now, the Delaware Charter Schools Network would be correct when they tell people charters get $3000 less per student than traditional school districts. I’m not sure what year they are basing those figures on, but it actually works out to about $4,137 less per student. More meat for their argument.
But there are many other factors that go into this. By their very nature, school districts are much larger than charter schools. They have more buildings to take care of. Their central administration has to be bigger to keep track of it all. While some (and rightfully so in certain situations) complain about the sheer number of district administrators, I think we can all agree that districts need more administrators than charter schools because of the sheer volume involved. Out of the total amount of expenses, charter schools spend 11.57% of their funds on administration. Traditional school districts in Delaware spend 7.09% on administration. Charter schools spend 14.36% on “plant operations maintenance”, which I assume includes rent, custodial duties, and expenses for the actual physical building(s). Districts spend $9.66% in this category. Percentage wise, districts do spend more on student transportation at 4.62% opposed to charter schools’ 2.88%. But there is one factor that may not be included in these totals for the charters: does this include the surplus transportation funds they get to keep after what they spent?
The key figures in the above charter are the pie slices that show the percentage of funds districts and charters get from federal funding. While some of these funds come from federal grant funds, the bulk of them are for Title I and IDEA-B funding. Title I is funds for low-income schools while IDEA-B is for students with disabilities. Note that districts have more than double the percentage of federal funds than charters. This is because districts have more students in those two categories. For some charters in Delaware, they have very high percentages of those populations. But the ones that are on the opposite end bring that percentage way down. Especially schools like Newark Charter School and Charter School of Wilmington.
I wasn’t going to publish this article after the whole district-charter funding war commenced a week ago. But with everything that happened since, I feel it is important to get these numbers out there. I do have further analysis based on this and how I intend to prove, that if Delaware were to go to a true weighted funding formula, charters schools would actually receive less local and state dollars as a collective whole than what they are receiving now.