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In Census Finance Data, Most Charters Are Not Quite Public Schools

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Matthew -- I understand your point about data collection, but I'm wondering about the source for saying that "many" school districts pay for charter services in the first place -- if they're not paying for those services in the first place, then there is no spending that could be potentially misclassified. I know that in Florida, transportation is legally the charter school's responsibility (see http://www.faptflorida.org/1-Charter%20Schools%20Transportaton%20Resource%20Guide%20with%20Cover-Nov-2006.pdf), while in Arkansas and North Carolina, there is neither a transportation requirement nor any public funding spent on it. So I'm wondering how often the misclassification of which you speak could even potentially occur.

In California, Charter Schools can be independent or affiliated. Affiliated charter schools are operated within a school district, under the auspices of the County Offices of Education or under the auspices of the State Board of Education. These affiliated charters are fully public schools that must adhere to the California Education Codes for public schools, including hiring credentialed teachers, proper background checks for all employees, and public audits of finances. Independent charter schools are not public schools. They are private schools who do not have to follow 90% of the education code. They do not have to do background checks on employees. They do not have to have credentialed teachers. Although they must be run by non-profit corporations, the majority of them contract various services out to for profit companies run by the same people who are in charge of the non-profit.

Do you have a source for this statement: "Although they must be run by non-profit corporations, the majority of them contract various services out to for profit companies run by the same people who are in charge of the non-profit."

@jr "Do you have a source for this statement" You can start by checking out the boards of directors of corporations like ExEd, and then cross referencing those names with the names of Los Angeles CMO CEOs. Familiar names like charter millionaire Judy Bur

"For example, many school districts pay the transportation, food, and other costs for the charter schools within their boundaries, and these expenses are sometimes substantial." Many? Where can I find more exact numbers on districts that supposedly do this? (They certainly don't in my home state.)

Keep in mind, Stuart, that this is largely a data-coding/collection issue, one that sometimes generates data incomparability, not an argument about who pays for what (for example, that charter schools somehow "freeload" on food/transportation costs). It's about how finances are tracked, not how money is spent. That said, I'm not aware of any centralized collection of funding tracking policies (which is a big part of the problem). As examples, in NYC, funding for some charter services is reflected in district totals (see http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/NYC-charter-disparities), while the same is true in New Jersey (see http://www.state.nj.us/education/guide/2011/intro.pdf).

Your 3rd paragraph is a bit misleading. The decision to include a charter as it's own LEA or as part of a district, has nothing to do with who operates the school. It's a function of state law. Also I'm not sure what you mean by "operates the school." To my knowledge no district or state for that matter directly operates a charter school; however, the majority of charters (53%) are authorized by school districts (LEAs) and the next largest group (20%) are authorized by states (SEAs). See pg. 14; http://www.qualitycharters.org/images/stories/publications/2010_facts_report.pdf

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