How Ohio funds charter schools has caused some disput

The billion dollar mark illustrates how important the charter -or community school- system has become in Ohio.

Not only is state spending on charter schools going up, nationwide investors think there is profit to be made. The real estate company Entertainment Properties Trust usually builds movie theaters, ski resorts, and retail properties. But here was the CEO, David Brain, a couple years ago on CNBC saying charters schools are the strongest part of their portfolio.

“The industry is growing about 12-14% a year so it’s a high growth, very stable, recession resistant business. It’s a public payer. The state is the payer on this category. And you do business in states with fiscally sound treasuries, then it’s a very solid business.”

But how the state funds charters is a matter of some dispute in Ohio. The state sends money to each public school district for its own schools but also for any charter school that kids in that district may attend. Ohio starts by earmarking a foundation of $5800 for each and every public school student and then holds back some of that. The Ohio Department of Education Budget Director Aaron Rausch says the percentage a district gets to keep will vary.

“There is a state share percentage that is applied to the calculated aid for a traditional public school that is between 5 and 90%.”

A poor district might get more than $5 thousand dollars per student in state aid while a rich district could get less than $500 a student. But if a child in that district goes to a charter school, the district may have to pass along more than it gets from Columbus. Damon Asbury of the Ohio School Boards Association says charters will get the full $5800.

“So that charter school student is taking with him or her a lot more money than the kids who remain in the district. They therefore have fewer resources for the remaining students because the charter school is taking a disproportionate share.”

So where do districts get the extra money to send to charter schools?

“Local tax revenues.”

(Read more at NPR)