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Positive news for charters from Mayor Gray's proposed budget

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The charter sector has been eagerly awaiting Mayor Gray's release of his proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget. The reason for the high level of anticipation was that last January the Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith released the Adequacy Study with the promise to end the approximately $100 million a year that the traditional schools receive outside of the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula to which charters do not have access. When she made the final report available to the public Ms. Smith revealed that the fix would be fazed in over several years. Yesterday, we got the first glimpse of what form the remedy would take.

Well it looks like the solution has been mostly put off for another day, and now we know, for another Mayor. However, at the same time, there is good news in the budget document for charters. For example, the DME explains that there is $112 million in new money in the UPSFF for both school systems. The base rate for teaching pupils would go up two percent, from $9,206 per child per year to $9,492. The remainder of the increase is targeted to augmenting funding for the following categories of students: middle school, high school, English language learners, alternative and adult. Finally, a weight was added "for students who are at risk of academic failure."

Moreover, there is an additional $5 million to assist in providing nurses to charter schools. Then comes the surprise. Although the Adequacy Study committed to studying charter school facility funding at a later date, Mayor Gray's budget includes the first increase in the facility fund in years. At $3,072 a year for each pupil the average charter of 400 students would see $288,000 in additional revenue. But there's more. The proposed budget ties the facility allotment to inflation so that it would go up as costs do.

A couple of other notes about the budget. It contains a new justification for DCPS being provided Department of General Services building maintenance dollars outside of the UPSFF because "DCPS is a system of right that must accommodate students in every community across the city, at any point during the school year, it must maintain a network of neighborhood schools, even if some are underutilized." It also does not target any money for Councilman David Catania's Promise school scholarships. The Mayor justifies this omission by saying that providing funding would lead to Congress ending the DC TAG program. The only problem with this justification is that no one on the Hill with oversight over the Federal plan is saying that this would be the case.

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