HARTFORD — - The way the state distributes money to charter, magnet and technical schools, and even local school systems, is such a tangled mess of funding formulas that the entire system should be reformed, a committee of the State Board of Education decided Wednesday.
"We have an absolutely irrational and unsustainable funding system," said board Chairman Allan Taylor. "We need a system that facilitates public school choice and treats kids equitably — not based on where they go to school, but what they need."
The committee will recommend pulling together a group representing all interests, from teachers and principals to charter school advocates, legislators and the governor's office, to overhaul the dysfunctional school finance system.
The committee came up with the study committee plan after wrestling with how the state pays for and controls enrollment at its 18 public charter schools. Charter schools are public, but are governed by their own boards, offer specialized curriculums and can raise private money.
The state currently pays charter schools $9,300 per student, a sum the board proposes to increase to $10,386. The board also proposes legislation to lift other restrictions on charter schools to enhance Connecticut's application for federal Race to the Top school reform funding.
Charter school advocates want the board to change the funding formula for charters, saying that charters are paid less than other public schools.
Advocates, such as the ConnCAN education reform group, said the state now pays twice for the same charter school student: once to the local school system for a student that the system no longer educates, and once to the charter school. They say Connecticut taxpayers are paying $186 million a year in duplicate costs for students attending charter schools.State education officials say ConnCAN is wrong and that the state pays only charter schools, not local schools, for charter students.
ConnCAN proposed that local school systems pay for their students who attend charter schools. That would require towns to pay thousands more to cover charter costs, from a low of a total of $10,078 for Hebron to as much as $27.2 million for New Haven schools.
Dacia Toll, president of Achievement First, which supports four charter schools in Connecticut, said after the meeting that she was disappointed that the board didn't support ConnCAN's plan, "but I think we understand the desire for a comprehensive solution," she said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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