New guidance from the federal government could provide new and greatly expanding charters with more funding, say charter school experts.
The guidance, which provides further clarification about how Title I funds should be distributed to new and expanding charter schools, attempts to square federal laws that charter advocates say conflict with each other and prevent charter schools from receiving their fair share of funds. It was sent out to Title I directors around the country on Sep. 23.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act requires that districts receive a Title I allocation that is at or above its hold-harmless level. How much money each district receives depends upon a formula which draws on the district's prior year's data.
But for new charter schools and expanding charters (many newly opened charter schools start with one grade level and add one more grade each year to expand rapidly), the base rate of funding can be difficult to determine since the number of students in the school is fluctuating.
And the issue is further complicated by reductions in Title I funds, making it harder for states to fulfill all districts' hold-harmless funding levels.
The federal guidance around this issue provides more details into how new and expanding charter schools' Title I allocation should be determined and specifies that if hold-harmless requirements are unable to be fully funded because of reductions in budgets, "an SEA must ratably reduce the amount needed to meet the hold-harmless level for each LEA down to the amount allocation to the State to ensure that each eligible LEA receives an allocation that is as close as possible to its hold-harmless level."
In other words, reductions should be made equitably across the board and should not negatively impact specific schools, such as newly opening or greatly expanding charters.
Colin Miller, the vice president of policy for the California Charter Schools Association, said that this is an area that the CCSA has been working for awhile now, and he is happy with the guidance.
"We think that this is going to result in a more equitable allocation of Title I dollars," he said.
Nina Rees, the president and chief executive officer for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, also praised the move.
"We are thrilled that the Department of Education recognizes how important it is for new and expanding charter schools to get the share of Title I funding they need to serve disadvantaged students," she said in an email to Education Week. "This guidance ensures that the federal hold-harmless provisions will be carried out in the way they were intended and not in a way that disadvantages charter schools."