What is happening?
In Maryland, charter schools are public schools. City Schools has worked collaboratively with our charter schools to provide them with sizeable increases in student-centered funding through the Blueprint Act. Most charter and contract school operators – 22 in total – are aligned with City Schools’ vision that supports all students.
However, seven charter school operators - Afya Baltimore, Baltimore Montessori, City Neighbors, KIPP Baltimore, Patterson Public Charter School, New Song Community Learning Center, and Living Classrooms Foundation – claim they are “underfunded.” In a recent petition filed with the Maryland State Board of Education, these charters claim that City Schools’ funding formula is not enough, even though charter school funding has increased by more than 37 percent since the 2021-22 school year, representing a total of $159 million. By FY24, that number is expected to go up by about another $60 million.
What do operators at those seven schools want?
To increase their funding, those seven charter school operators propose to both keep their funding increases through the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Act (“Blueprint Act”) and “save” money by not doing what every school in our system does – pay their fair share of the more than $200 million needed to fully address funding gaps for special education, especially students with severe mental and physical needs, as well as pre-kindergarten learners.
If they have their way, the 124 traditional schools in the school system will carry the entire cost of serving our most vulnerable students, while those seven charter school operators benefit at their expense.
What does this mean for all schools?
The actions of the group of seven charter school operators would further exacerbate and create significant inequities between charter schools and traditional schools. For example:
- For a school of 500 students, a charter school would have $1.8 million more in funding than a traditional school. That’s a difference of about 18 teachers allowing the charter to expand at a level not in line with traditional schools, leaving charter schools better able to offer critical offerings like art, music, science, or world language programming – programming from which all students should benefit.
- For a larger school like a high school serving 1,300 students, the charter school would have $4.7 million more than an equivalent-sized traditional school allowing the charter school to hire about 47 additional teachers to expand the range of offerings and expand their programming at the expense of traditional schools ability to include more Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or dual college offerings – programming the similarly sized schools of both types should be able to offer not at the expense of one group over the other.
What does this mean for a student with severe mental and physical disabilities?
While the Blueprint Act increases state funding, it does not fully fund the costs of services for students with disabilities, especially students with severe mental and physical needs.
An example is “Jane,” a student who requires necessary and legally mandated educational services and accommodations, including physical supports like feeding tubes, modified gym equipment, aides, nursing support, and specialized learning equipment. Each year, this support can cost anywhere from $80,000 to $100,000, or even more, depending on if a special education school, like William S. Baer School, or a non-public school is the proper placement required by federal and state law.
What does Maryland Law say about charter funding?
Under Maryland law, public charter schools are required to receive funding that is “commensurate” to what traditional schools receive for each student. The recent Blueprint Act makes clear that all schools receive at least 75% of the resources provided by the State of Maryland for each student. The remainder is provided to cover critical systemwide expenses, including programming for our most vulnerable students that are well in excess of the per-pupil allocations.
The Blueprint Act begins to correct historical inequities while providing opportunities for more resources for our students, our families, our communities, our schools, and our staff. However, especially in the initial years of the Blueprint Act’s phase in, the increased targeted funding that City Schools receives from the State for special education and pre-kindergarten does not cover the full cost of those services – particularly for those students with the highest need. Accordingly, all schools must share in meeting the needs of our most vulnerable students.
What can our families do to address this issue?
City Schools urges our students, staff, their families and our staff to advocate for fair and equitable funding for charter and traditional school students. We ask that you work with us to make sure the actions of a few don’t undermine the Blueprint Act by taking funding necessary to support students who most need targeted additional resources to thrive.
Together, we can use the funds provided by the Blueprint Act to begin to correct systemic underfunding and lift the hopes of all Baltimore City students. But we can only do it if we all work together.