In recent months, several studies have been conducted on funding disparities between traditional public schools and public charter schools. Most focus on the “average” disparity between the schools. Look a little deeper and you will find the inequity to be much bigger in Gary, Indiana.
Using numbers provided by the Indiana Department of Education, Gary Public Schools spent more than $15,212 per student last year compared to 21st Century Charter School’s spending of $8,695. To be sure, we spent what we could. We are limited by the revenues we receive. Gary traditional schools have access to bonds and other local revenue sources that charter schools throughout the state don’t.
This amounts to a 43% funding disparity.
Nearly 1,000 more students attend charter schools in Gary than traditional schools with 4770 attending Gary Community Schools this year compared to 5613 attending charter schools in Gary this year.
Are 54% of Gary students worth 43% less than traditional Gary school students?
I think not!
We’ve all known charters are underfunded, but 43% less? Wow! 21st Century Charter School receives more than $6500 less per student. For our school, that’s more than $8 million per year less for our students.
And yet, we find ways to succeed anyway.
Case in point–look at 21st Century Charter School’s most recent college and career readiness rating. The state finally released the most recent figures this week and 21st Century Charter School’s students logged an 88.9% college and career readiness rating. What does this rating tell you? It is a measurement the state uses to guage how many college and/or career credits each graduate earned before graduating from high school. The state gives schools credit if students earn at least one 3-credit college course, a career certification course, or an AP and/or IB credit. So, 88.9% of our graduates earned at least three college credits while in our high school.
But we know our students did much more than that. In fact, 71% of this year’s class of 2021 has already earned a full year of college credits and the class as a whole has earned 17 college credits already. Six of our students earned a full associate degree, two have earned a full three years of college and one is just a handful of credits away from earning her bachelor’s degree.
Nonetheless, check out the graph above. 21st Century Charter School is the top school in NW Indiana in terms of college and career readiness, it beats the state average of 68.1% and is in the top 9% of the state–all while receiving 43% less than the local traditional schools.
We need to fix the formula. Why? Because as proud as I am of the performance of the school, we could be so much better. We want 100% of our high school students earning college and career credits. Indeed, we want 100% to earn associate degrees while in our high school. If we had equal funding, we could have smaller class sizes, provide more remediation for our students who are not in our college program, and hire more teachers and pay our teachers better.
There is a new legislature in session this year. It is my hope that our success will bring some positive changes not just for us, but for all students.
Happy New Year!
Founder & President