To the Editor:
Your Aug. 31, 2005, article on the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation study of charter school finance (“Study Finds Charters Receive Far Less Aid Than Regular Schools”) was, unfortunately, misleading when describing Minnesota.
Minnesota law generally provides per-pupil funding for district and charter public schools with similar student demographics.
Additional funding is provided for district and charter public schools that have high concentrations of low-income and limited-English-speaking students. In Minnesota, charter public schools serve, on average, more than twice as many low-income and limited-English-speaking students as district schools do, so they receive additional funds, as do other district public schools serving similar populations.
While the article correctly noted that Minnesota charter schools receive “slightly more per pupil … than regular public schools,” it misrepresented the situation here by failing to note important underlying funding mechanisms and demographic factors. This left the inaccurate impression that Minnesota provides more funding per pupil for charter schools than for district schools serving similar populations.
The additional funding is provided for public schools meeting certain conditions: district or charter public schools with high concentrations of low-income and limited-English-speaking students.
Minnesota’s charter public schools do not, however, receive any local property-tax revenues from voter-approved referendums. So in many cases, charter schools receive per pupil than similarly situated district schools, including those serving high percentages of low-income students.
Minnesota also provides funds to help charter public schools lease buildings, because charters may not levy taxes to pay for buildings. But these funds are less than a district would have to construct a building.
We are proud of bipartisan efforts in our state to move toward equal per-pupil funding of charter and district public schools. We think this is important, and a recent report on school choice from the National Governors Association and the Center for School Change, based at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, endorsed this principle of equal funding.
Minnesota has worked hard to promote equitable funding among all public schools, district or charter. Since we’re still not quite there, we think it is important to accurately describe both the progress made and the facts about current funding.
Minnesota Department of Education