April 7, 2013

Our View: State, not school districts, should fund charter schools

Until traditional schools are fully funded, they should not be expected to pay for charters.

If the charter school movement is going to succeed in Maine, it will be as a supplement to traditional public schools, not as an enemy of them.

Unfortunately, that's not the current situation.

A bill before the Legislature, L.D. 1057, would fund charters through a separate appropriation and allow the two systems to improve, side by side.

It's too much to ask school districts to divert funds to new charters whenever a local student enrolls.

Faced with state school funding that has never reached the 55 percent threshold required by law and a deep recession followed by a slow recovery, local school districts are struggling to meet their obligations.

Requiring these districts to cut their budgets to pay the state and local per-pupil allotment to a school outside the system makes traditional schools even less able to do the job they have been given.

When a child leaves a school, the principal does not turn down the heat. She doesn't lay off a twentieth of a teacher, she doesn't plow less snow and she doesn't send the office staff home a few minutes early.

All those costs have to be borne by a system with less money coming in, and the people who suffer are the students who have to make do with less. That is the issue L.D. 1057, sponsored by Rep. Karen Kusiak, D-Farmington, seeks to address.

If charter schools are funded directly by the state, some students will be able to benefit from alternatives without harming other students in the district. This not about killing charters, it's about coexisting with them. Lawmakers should support this bill.

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