How much less are Baltimore traditional schools getting next year?

That’s a question People for Public Schools put back on the table at the March 21 meeting of the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners. Representing People for Public Schools, Edit Barry read the following statement:

Dear Dr. Santelises and Members of the Board of School Commissioners,

We would like to call attention to the funding disparity between projected cuts to per-pupil funding at charter and traditional schools. We know that under the $129M deficit scenario, the cut to the charter per pupil across the board was a 5% reduction over last year.  Traditional schools were cut around 20%. In terms of per pupil dollars, we understand that to mean that before ELL, Special Education, and Fair Student Funding weights are added to school budgets, charter schools would receive $8,778 per student. Traditional schools would receive $4,585. Even allowing for the fact that the District plans to charge charter schools for more services than it has previously, these cuts, in all likelihood, push the funding for charters to a point where it is patently unfair. We therefore have two requests:

First, that the Board and CEO commit to making the actual disparity public. How? People for Public Schools asked Dr. Santelises at last week’s PCAB meeting, and she agreed, to direct staff to put the current per pupil figures through the same formula used in the AIR study. That study showed that the disparity in our school district was under $30 per pupil. That figure — less than $30 — makes our school district one of the more fair in Maryland, in terms of charter vs. traditional school funding. Under $30 is our benchmark. The AIR calculation is the best available tool to make a comparison. We would like to see what that disparity is under the $129M scenario and any new scenarios. We think it is fair to expect the CEO’s office to release those figures along with the new budget scenarios it has promised to share publicly by this Friday.

Exhibit I in the AIR study titled Funding Provided to Public Schools and Public Charter Schools in Maryland (Dec. 2016) shows a $27 average difference in per pupil funding at charters versus traditional schools in Baltimore City, and the relative fairness of past funding in Baltimore City relative to other districts.

Second, we demand that the Board and the CEO commit to pursuing every avenue that may lead to a remedy to unfair school funding. In public forums, the CEO and staff have blamed the disparity on “state law.” Commissioners on this Board have acknowledged that the guidance is a burden on the District’s budget and its ability to fund schools fairly and equitably. The leadership of City Schools knows that following the law is responsible for what is arguably not “commensurate funding,” so we urge you to take any or all of the following courses of action: a) fight the charter lawsuit to the point at which MSBE revisits its prior guidance establishing the 2% formula; b) fight for the Kirwan Commission to change the law; c) propose or support new legislation for 2018. Until then, we ask that you do everything in your power to ensure charters pay their fair share of central office costs, debt burdens, and the fund balance.

Thank you.