Letter to the Baltimore City School Board RE: Charter Applications

People for Public Schools sent a signed version of this letter to the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners on June 10, 2016.

 

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RE: 2016 Charter School Applications for SY 2017-18 and SY 2018-19

Dear School Board Commissioners,

People for Public Schools (PPS) is an independent, grassroots advocacy organization formed in fall 2015 by Baltimore City Public Schools parents and supporters. We are concerned about the potential impact of the lawsuit filed by charter schools against the District. Representing the interests of nearly 400 Baltimore City parents, grandparents, teachers, and community members who are affiliated with more than 30 traditional, contract, and charter schools, we are advocates for fair and equitable funding for all schools and all students – no matter what type of school they attend.

In regard to the Board’s recent hearing on proposed charter school expansions and the Board’s upcoming vote on these proposals, we have one request: Do not approve any new charter schools, conversions, or expansions unless and until the Board and the school system can determine and demonstrate their potential impact – in individual cases and on the whole – on existing school budgets.

Traditional school parents, community members, teachers and staff deserve to know the costs to their schools of the founding of a new charter school, a charter expansion, or a conversion of an existing traditional school to a public charter school – as well as the startup and incremental costs of any combination of these events. Everyone in the school system deserves to know how these fundamental shifts will affect our schools. The Board has a fiduciary responsibility to project the impact of new charter schools on surrounding schools and the school system as a whole.

In light of current circumstances, it is impossible for the Board to meet that obligation. BCPSS is engaged in a lawsuit over charter school funding, and the acceptability of the funding formula the school system uses is in question. Not until the lawsuit is resolved and an equitable funding formula is affirmed should the school system seriously consider adding more charter schools or increasing the number of charter school seats.

Under the current charter funding formula, we know that any growth in the number of charter seats in Baltimore City will create additional burdens on traditional school budgets and the students those budgets support. During information sessions led by City Schools last fall to educate the public on its then recently introduced charter funding formula, City Schools staff noted that it would be impossible to fund every school in the system the way they fund charter schools; there is not enough money. By comparing sets of similarly sized traditional and charter schools, and looking at budgets of conversion charters before and after conversion, PPS can show that charter schools receive more funding than traditional schools. The disparity is clear where it counts most: in the ratios of students-to-staff and students-to-teachers.

Right now, rather than expand choice, an expansion of charter seats will increasingly place Baltimore City students in a two-tiered public education system – in which one is better funded at the expense of the other. We must not further exacerbate existing inequities by adding charter school seats without a proper assessment of their true costs.

Thank you for your leadership on this critical issue and your thoughtful consideration of this request.