The House Education Committee this week discussed a charter school bill. The lawmakers adjourned debate on a bill that, among other things, would create a revolving loan program for charter school facilities and allow charter school sponsors to retain certain funds for overseeing the school.
Pickens County Republican Phil Owens says a fiscal impact statement of the change has been ordered, but he says supporters don’t anticipate any fiscal impact on the state. He says it would simply allow funding to follow the students. State funding does that now. But if the original charter school legislation is altered, it would affect local funding as well.
According to the South Carolina Charter School website, a Charter School is mission-driven, de-regulated, independent public school of choice. They’re tuition-free public schools that operate in South Carolina on a ten-year contract. Charter Schools provide educators with flexibility to operate different types of public schools with special focuses, from performing arts, technology, Montessori, construction trades, college prep, to alternative education.
Union Democrat Mike Anthony, a coach and teacher at Union High School, said that he supports charter schools and would not mind all schools being charter schools since they’re less regulated. But he was emphatic that there should limits to their funding, when many regular public schools are struggling.
(Anthony on charter schools MP3 6:09)
Anthony on charter schools
Anthony says there needs to be more funding for regular public schools, since charter school students only account for a small percentage of all students, and he said that charter advocates continue to ask for more and more funds.
An amendment regarding virtual school funding failed. Lawmakers said they wanted to look into it more, that the percentage of student funding that would be allotted to virtual schools seemed unreasonable. The new virtual schools are Internet based and don’t have the overhead for school classroom facilities that typical schools have. Charter schools and virtual schools already receive a student’s state funding, or base student cost, but local property tax money is now at stake. A proposal indicates that virtual schools would receive 77 percent of the student’s funding. A number of committee members agreed with Anthony that they need more information before approving the funding.
There are currently five virtual schools registered in South Carolina, which serve students all over the state. Barbara Stoops, Director of Palmetto State e-cademy, a virtual school, was asked to speak to the committee. She said that the funding recommendation came from the South Carolina Department of Education.
The Education Committee will take up the issue again during their February 24th meeting.