School Finance Reform: CCSA in Action at the State Capitol

March 23, 2011

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CCSA's Government Affairs team makes public school funding a top priority. Today, Assemblymember Julia Brownley, chair of the Assembly Education Committee, held an informational hearing on developing a new structure for school finance, and CCSA was in attendance on behalf of our members. Our major message at the hearing was that CCSA encourages the Legislature to look to charter schools as laboratories: we can help!

Traditional public schools might be able to learn a thing or two from the charter funding model. Since 2000, charter schools have been funded though a model that provides a statewide average revenue limit, funding by grade, a categorical block grant, and an additional "economic impact aid" block grant based on English Language Learners and pupils living in poverty. Many charter schools already use school site-based budgeting, providing track records as the traditional public school system looks to this type of funding model.

It is imperative that charter schools be included in any school finance reform. Charter schools have been disproportionally hit during the budget crisis due to the fact that new and growing schools have been "frozen out" of the flex lock-in, charters have limited access to categorical funding like K-3 Class Size Reduction, and charters are devastated by deferrals because they lack access to short-term working capital. These inequities must be corrected so that pupils generate the same level of funding regardless of the public school they attend.

Additionally, school site level budgeting and financial reporting must be a key element of school finance reform. Analysis of school site level resources is a critical component in evaluating the overall academic outcomes of schools. We look forward to sharing our experience with this type of budgeting and participating as this process moves forward - after all, the Charter Schools Act was designed in part so that charter schools could be the "research and development" arm of the public school system.

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