Equitable Funding and Services
The D.C. School Reform Act of 1995, DC’s charter school law, requires that all public school operating funding be distributed to DCPS and the individual public charter schools on a uniform per-student basis. In spite of this, DCPS annually receives tens of millions of dollars amounting to many thousands of dollars per student—more in operating funding than do the charter schools. This is accomplished in a variety of ways: by funding DCPS for its (always inflated) projection of enrolled students while funding charters only for actually-enrolled students; by having other government agencies provide free services such as building maintenance to DCPS that charters have to pay for; by providing DCPS (but not charters) with supplemental appropriations to cover such things as teacher pay increases; by appropriating funds to other government agencies and then transferring these funds to DCPS (called a reprogramming); and by directly paying for DCPS overspending.
DCPS also receives far more funding for school buildings than do the public charter schools. For FY 2013, the DCPS per student capital budget is $7,992, while the public charter school per pupil facilities allowance is only $3,000. This inequity is even greater than it appears, as public charter schools, unlike DCPS, must use this funding to acquire their school buildings—most on the commercial market—not just to renovate them. Because of this, on average the public charter schools can provide only 100 square feet per student, while DCPS students enjoy 140 square feet (elementary), 170 square feet (middle) or 190 square feet (high).
The establishment of the Public Education Finance Reform Commission (PEFRC) in 2010 gave us hope that these operating and capital funding inequities would finally be addressed, but the PEFRC finished its work without making any recommendations to reduce the inequities. FOCUS is now seeking legislative and possible legal remedies to these inequities.