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Date Posted: 13:50:26 02/12/11 Sat
Author: CharterStarter, Too
Subject: Re: An example might help
In reply to: Larry 's message, "An example might help" on 17:40:07 02/11/11 Fri

Ah, a good night's sleep does wonders! Now I'm ready to chat.

First, I want to address the comment regarding your daughter not receiving equitable funding in her GCSS school (a question you asked for my thoughts about on 2/9), as I think it is relevant to my answer to what you sent me yesterday. Your assumption is that revenue is equal and costs for educating children is equal by category. I believe this is flawed in theory. Let me explain...

Let's say that your daughter is 6 segments regular ed. She would "earn" her full QBE funding from the state. In addition, she would earn (indirectly) a proportionate share/benefit of other state funds (equalization, transportation,SPLOST, bond revenue for facility, etc.)

Because local funding is NOT programmatically based, then taking the whole pot of money, dividing it out proportionally by student) then would yield "her" proportionate share of local funds, equal to every other student either at Ivy Prep or GCSS.

But,you see, the issue with the charter schools' funding is not with the equivalent local funds taken out from QBE earnings, it's problems in other areas of the funding formula provided for in the law but not actualized in the charter school funding stream in actuality. In your example, you only made comparisons at a higher level - general source. You are right in that program to program QBE earnings (adjusting for T&E of course) and adding just proportionate share of local funds, Ivy students and GCSS students should be equal. But if you look wholistically at revenue for charters vs. districts, there are several things that charters do not have a revenue stream for (but may still have an expense) and for which districts DO have a revenue stream:

* Funds for facilities (SPLOST, bond revenue, etc.)
* 3% oversight fee
* Federal funds (which are included in per pupil averages, even though earned by specific populations)

Add on top of the below list what some charters are SUPPOSED to be getting and aren't (transportation, equalization, nursing, T&E) and you can see the reason for diproportionate funding to the benefit of the districts.

Ergo, there is no way your daughter (as 1 regular ed. FTE) is funded less than any singular Ivy Prep reg. ed. student, and in fact, she is funded a LOT more, either directly through funds or indirectly through benefits. It's mathematically impossible for your statement to be true.

Now, if we switch over to the EXPENSE side, that's a whole different ball of wax. Your example, although theoretically makes sense, in practice does not. Here's why:

To earn 1 FTE for SPED, this could be any permutation of # of children and services. 6 children with 1 segment each, 2 children with 3 segments each, etc. These children could have varying types of disabilities and still fit in the same funding category. The "cost" for SPED children with different disabilities and provisions in their IEP can vary widely, even if they all fit in Category I for funding. So then, we have to go with the law of averages for both revenue and spending.

How that money is "spent" will vary widely on the school population, staffing, etc. decisions at the school and district level. Also, consideration for central office spending at the district versus limited, if any, spent at the charter level should be factored.

Speaking on efficiency and maximizing funds - have you ever visited a Commission charter school? Have you reviewed the staff they have for administration? Keep in mind that the Commission staff admin. (district charters as well for that matter), in effect, cover facilities, HR, finance, general admin., food service, technology, and transportation departments all with the school level staff they have earned. How? Well, they make very purposeful decisions about their staffing and everyone wears a lot of hats and people hired have multiple professional talents. They price shop constantly. They prioritize needs versus wants. They leverage community resources.

Compare this to a district leviathan. Yes, it would seem that districts would be able to capitalize on efficiencies of scale, and in some ways they do (purchasing, etc.) This savings though gets eaten up by staffing a bureaucracy. Have you ever considered the staffing positions of a district compared to a charter? I can assure you that positions/titles that exist at the district level will never exist at a charter school, even in handling some of the same functions. From a school level perspective (traditional or charter), the answer you would get if you ask in the field is that many of these district level positions are useless - either directly or indirectly to the instruction of students or efficacy of the district as a whole. I do not mean to say that a district would not require more personnel than a singular school, but what I will say is that they overstaff and over spend already meager funds.

From an expense standpoint, a district is GOING to and DOES spend more per pupil for the reasons I articulated above. This is a relevant point because the charters, as efficient and lean as they are, are struggling with adequacy of funds to even cover bare necessities such as facilities, adequate SCHOOL LEVEL staff, transportation, technology, etc. So, if...

1) they earn less per pupil on average (by a lot);
2) they earn less per pupil, per program on average; and 3) they are more efficient with the funds they have to spend than the district, then there is an equity issue.

The drastic per pupil dicrepancy between charter and district REVENUE further substantiate this point.

I have studied "adequacy" quite a lot, as it is of particular interest to me. I believe that the districts and charters would all agree that the state funding formula, as good as the intentions were of its writers, does not adequately cover the costs for educating students (particularly with austerity cuts every year since 2002) and programs provided for in statute not being adequately funded to begin with (i.e., transportation). Even with adjustments for local tax base, etc., it's not enough. That means that district and charter efficiency in spending becomes paramount. It also means that making sure you get every dime you are due is also critical.

I'm enjoying the debate very much and have enjoyed your thoughtful commentary.

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