FACTS about Florida's Public Charter Schools
Your questions about charter school funding, academic performance, and why they have grown in popularity with parents are answered here.
Inaccuracies and misinformation about charter schools are prevalent in media coverage. This guide is a response to common errors published about public schools, their funding, operations, and academic performance.
Charter schools are public schools of choice
All charter school students elect to attend their school because it offers a program they, and their family, value.
Not one student is assigned to a charter school. Enrollment is entirely a parent’s decision.
Charter school enrollment
Across the state, charter school enrollment has increased every year because families value public school options.
The number of charter schools has grown from 5 in their inception in Florida in 1997, to more than 650 charter schools serving 260,000 students in the 2014-2015 school year.
Why have charter schools grown in popularity
Policy doesn't fill seats, parents do! Parents are the force behind charter school growth. Charter schools enjoy bipartisan support. Yes, former Governor Jeb Bush is a supporter, but so is President Clinton who established the federal Charter Schools Program during his presidency.
Charter schools do offer something different
Charter school critics often say that charter schools are too similar to district public schools. That is a ridiculous argument. There are similarities between charter schools and district-run school because both are public schools, and as public schools both must follow certain federal, state, and Department of Education guidelines. However, differences do exist. Some are very clear to see – like a program that focuses on arts or science, uniform policy, or the required parental involvement. Other differences are not easily measured – like when a child finally makes academic progress because they are enrolled in a program that fits their needs.
According to a Florida Department of Education report released in April 2014 entitled Student Achievement in Florida’s Charter Schools: A Comparison of Performance of Charter School Students with Traditional Public School Students, Florida’s charter schools posted their most impressive student achievement results to date in the 2013-14 school year.
The average charter school student’s performance on state tests exceeded that of the average district school student in nearly every grade level and subject.
Charter schools in Florida are helping a higher percentage of students most at risk for underachievement, including Hispanic and Black students, students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program, and students with disabilities.
Charter schools were also more successful in closing the achievement gap between white and minority students.
Charter school funding
Both district managed schools and charter schools receive per student funding from the State.
Local funding accounts for the largest disparity between District and charter public schools. Charter school students are funded an average of 11.4 % less than students attending a district school (2005 Thomas B. Fordham Institute report).
According to a Ball State University study (May 2010), the nation’s public charter schools receive, on average, $2,247 less per pupil funding than district public schools in the same state during the 2006-07 school year.
In Florida, on average, public charter school students received over $3,000 less than students attending traditional public schools.
Click here to watch a video about how education funding flows to school.
Funding follows the child
Parents decide where their education tax dollars go by choosing the school their child attends.
Charter schools DO NOT take money from district-run public schools. Per student funding from the state is allocated to the school a student attends.
Capital millage is exclusively (except in a few Counties in Florida) used by school districts – even though both district school and charter school parents contribute.
Capital outlay – funded through Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) – is limited and only available once a charter school has been in operation for three years and has met other accountability requirements.
PECO / construction dollars from the state are the only source of facility funding charter schools receive. School districts get PECO and also have several other options to increase revenues if construction needs arise – including the use of Certificates of Participation (COPS) and asking voters for an added millage allocation for major construction, maintenance or operational projects. An option charter schools do not have.
PECO funds are divided among eligible schools and the allocation has not increased proportionately with the growth in enrollment.
Most charter schools receive federal start-up grant dollars and capital outlay funds that allow them to secure a facility and begin operations. However, in the last decade, the availability of those grants has been dramatically reduced while the number of charter schools has grown substantially.