Inequitable funding negatively impacts charter school students.

I have a question for you. Who are the most important people in our public schools? As you will see in a moment, this is not a trick question. The obvious answer is that our children are the most important people in our public schools. We have public schools to teach our children the skills, knowledge, and civic values they need to be good citizens and pursue their dreams and ambitions. We are preparing them for life.

Here is a second question. Are some of the children who go to public schools less important than others? The obvious answer is no. But, again, that is not so obvious to everyone. It is our position that all children are sacred, and all of them deserve the best public education possible. But as it turns out, public policy in Missouri treats some children worse than others.

Public schools in Missouri are funded nearly entirely by the taxpayers— federal, state and local. We do that because we believe everyone— regardless of their family income— should have access to a good education and because we believe that educated children are good for the rest of us, either directly or indirectly. That holds true both for public schools that operate in a school district and for charter schools that work independently from a central administration.

The kids in both district schools and charter schools attend public schools. All of their parents want a good education for their children. A child in a district school is no less important than a child in a charter public school, and visa versa. Unfortunately, a loophole in the law treats them differently when it comes to local tax dollars.

The issue is known in educational circles as “funding equity.” What it means is that some public school students receive less government funding for their education than others quite a bit less in some cases.

The loophole in the law gets a little complicated. But, it goes like this. Local taxpayers pay property taxes and sometimes sales taxes for public education. The students in the district schools get the actual amount those taxes bring in. But, the charter public school students get less, sometimes much less. They get the amount calculated in 2005. The amount of taxes generated by taxpayers in 2005 is much less than the amount paid today.

There is a second way some of our children are shortchanged. Several sources of local tax revenue go for students who attend district schools, but not for students who attend charter public schools.

While the calculation is complicated, the result of this loophole in the law is not. A student who attends a charter public school in St. Louis gets $4,000 less per year for her education than a student who attends the St. Louis Public Schools. In Kansas City, charter students receive 2500.00 less than their district peers. That is not equal, and it is discriminatory.

Some will argue that students, by attending a charter school instead of a district school, are taking resources away from the school district; and, therefore they should get less money for their education. That goes back to my first question. Who are the most important people in our public schools, the children or the administrators and other adults? If you believe the answer is our children, then I urge you to support a change in state law to close the loophole that treats some of our children as less important.