Sunday, July 18, 2004

Local taxes do not fund charter schools

By Terry Ryan
Guest columnist

In the July 8 story "Ohio gets $16.5M to create charters," district Treasurer Michael Geoghegan misidentifies the funding sources for Cincinnati charter schools. He claims that the district's disbursal of money included "$20.7 million from ... local property tax revenues."

Although funding for charter schools is based on a complex formula, one fact is crystal clear: Charter schools receive less money overall, and no money at all from local taxes. Charter funding comes solely from state and federal sources. According to state law, charters cannot receive local tax dollars, unlike their traditional district school counterparts.

Education researchers Bryan Hassel and Michelle Terrell provided the much-needed proof of this in their recent study comparing charter vs. district school financing in Dayton. District schools in Dayton collect up to 44 percent of their revenues from local taxes, while charters receive only state and federal funding. Additionally, charters receive no taxpayer dollars for school construction. This is in contrast to the Cincinnati Public Schools, which will receive upwards of $900 million from taxpayers for new school construction over the next decade. In short, district schools receive about a third more taxpayer dollars per student than charter schools.

It is disconcerting that the disinformation campaign of those who oppose charter schools has found its way into the news section of the Enquirer. Some criticisms can legitimately be leveled at charter schools in Ohio. But one criticism wholly unwarranted is the allegation that they're getting "more than their share" of public dollars, an accusation stemming from the belief that their initial funding sources are comparable to district schools. The fact is charter schools are getting far less money than district schools from the taxpayers. District leaders should stop pointing their fingers at charter schools, and focus their considerable resources on improving what they do for children.


Terry Ryan is the program director of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in Dayton, Ohio.

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