Philanthropy doesn’t close funding gap for charter schools, study shows

Charter schools receive $99 more in non-public revenue per student in North Carolina than public schools, but this funding does not close the revenue gap, a recent study from the University of Arkansas shows.

Public schools still receive over $2,700 more per student than charters in 15 states that researchers examined.

Non-public revenue mainly comes from food service and investment revenue in public schools, with only about 5 percent from philanthropy. For charter schools, however, philanthropy makes up over half of non-public revenue.

Philanthropic funding for charter schools is also not universal. In North Carolina, about a third of charter schools are receiving 90 percent of the funds, the study found.

Charitable funds only make up 5.3 percent of total charter revenues in the states included in the study, compared with 2.6 percent for traditional public schools.

“Traditional public schools reap the benefit of larger account balances that generate more investment income than charter schools can generate,” said Larry Maloney, lead researcher of the University of Arkansas team. “Since charter schools receive less overall funding from public sources, more of their funding must be used in any given year.”

A cap on how many charter schools could operate in North Carolina was lifted in 2011. Since then, numbers of the schools have been rising, especially in Mecklenburg County, where new charter school applications accounted for nearly half of all applications in the state in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years. Three new charters in the county were approved this year, bringing the total number of Charlotte-Mecklenburg charter schools to 25.

Charter students received an estimated 88 percent of the full local per pupil funding in Mecklenburg County, according to data from 2013-2014 audit reports from the N.C. Treasurer’s Office and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. CMS spent $8,473 per pupil, according to their website.

Bacon: 704-358-5725; Twitter: @erindbacon