The South Carolina legislature will take up a bill this week that would require local school district to pay for charter schools in their areas, even if they have no control over the school itself.
Charter schools are a form of public school operated by nonprofits that don’t follow all of the same standards as traditional public schools. They are usually offered as an alternative to traditional-style education.
The bill headed to the House floor would require local districts to fund charter schools on a per-student basis. While many districts already fund their own locally-run charter schools, the change is aimed at helping the South Carolina Public Charter School District-which consists of 11 schools overseen by the state.
Those schools usually include students from multiple school districts or those consisting entirely of virtual classes done online. As a result, they are only funded by state and federal money. However, once federal stimulus funds disappear next year, many face closure.
Right now, the state provides the Charter School District with $1,600 per pupil–the same level it funds traditional public schools. However, most school districts also use local taxes to make up the estimated cost per student.
Wayne Brazell is superintendent of SCPSD. He says, districts should have to cover all public schools in their area.
If a student is coming from one district, that local money would follow the child. It certainly gives us a higher degree of funding than we have now, and it would certainly make our district sustainable.
He says two or three schools would likely close without any help this year. However, if the law doesn’t pass, legislators have included a budget proviso that would increase the funding for state charter schools.
Districts say they are already strapped for cash and cannot afford to pay schools that are considered outside of their oversight. Brazell says he understands that local schools are hurting, as well.
As a superintendent, I’m just doing the best I can to make sure that public educational funding for students in schools in our district meet at least a sustainable level of funding.
The bill would also allow students in charter schools to participate in sports and other activities at nearby public schools.
The legislation passed the Education & Public Works Committee last week. The full House will likely take it up on Wednesday.