Let’s get the facts straight. Public charter-school students are underfunded on average, $1,578 per pupil, when compared with their district peers. That amount is verified by Arizona’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee, a bipartisan fiscal oversight committee.
It is irresponsible to The Arizona Republic’s readers to only tell half of the story.
The June 30 article, “Charter-school transition: Districts converting traditional schools in bid for more state cash” misleads readers by focusing only on the funding provided by the Arizona Legislature. That pot of money is only about half of what schools receive per student. The other half comes from local tax dollars.
While it is true that charter students receive about $1,000 in additional state funding, the story failed to share why the Legislature provides that additional amount. I was the House Education Committee chairwoman who was the sponsor of the 1994 charter law. We provided additional dollars to charter students from the state coffers because charter schools have no access to local tax dollars. When put into context, Paradise Valley Unified School District receives over $9,500 per pupil, not $4,400 as the story reported.
Arizona has embraced school choice, and families have benefited. Students are now able to attend any public school — district or charter — that best fits their needs. But the funding formula has not kept up. Our outdated school-finance formula was last reformed in 1980, when the government had only one fax machine. Funding should be transparent to the public and equitable to students, no matter where they live.
Here is our challenge to the public and your lawmakers: Let’s work together to make the necessary school funding reforms to ensure all students are funded equitably, regardless of where they choose to attend school. We need to fix this problem, so that no student is worth less.
Lisa Graham Keegan is a former Arizona superintendent of public instruction.