The following was published as a Letter to the Editor appearing in The Houston Chronicle on January 29, 2016.
School funding is a mystery to most Texans and can be described as convoluted at best. We appreciate your addressing this matter in your piece of January 24, and share many concerns with using antiquated formulas and measures to fund public schools.
Public charter schools serve more than 227,000 students at more than 600 campuses across Texas. Generally, the students enrolled at a charter school are African American and Hispanic and come from economically disadvantaged homes.
More than 125,000 students are currently on a wait list to attend a charter school. Charter schools simply do not have the means to meet the growing demand for additional seats because they do not receive facilities funding from the state. Period. Charter schools must cannibalize funds from their Maintenance and Operations allotment, funds intended for academic instruction. We cannot dismiss that our counterparts at other public schools receive $5.5 billion in facilities funding annually while charter school students receive nothing.
Critics of charter schools would have you believe the size adjustment and weighted average daily attendance compensates charter schools for what they do not receive in facilities funding. Using the weighted average daily attendance, the gap is an average of $1000 less per student statewide, a number undisputed by any party in the most recent school finance litigation. When using average daily attendance, the gap ranges from $489 at the low end to $4,624 at the high end. Bottom line: a funding gap shortchanges charter school students.
Texas needs to stop penalizing families for choosing charter schools for their children and overhaul the school finance system to provide equitable funding for all public school students.