Seeking Funding Equity for Charter Schools at Every Level

August 17, 2010

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As state and federal revenues continue to be in short supply, many localities are seeking to supplement their education funding with local measures. Most prominent among these local measures are local parcel taxes - a local property tax that allocates funds for a specified purpose. A local school district board of education has the authority to place a property tax on the ballot, requesting that local voters agree to levy the additional tax on behalf of local public schools.

School districts have been increasingly turning to parcel taxes to help provide additional funding for their local public schools. For example, 20 school districts placed parcel tax measures on the local ballot in the primary elections in spring 2010, and 15 of those were approved by the voters, despite the state's flagging economy and despite the fact that a parcel tax needs a two-thirds majority vote of the voting public in order to pass. These parcel taxes can result in hundreds of dollars per student of additional revenue in the classroom.

CCSA has been working in specific local school districts to push for a charter school equitable share of local parcel tax revenue. Existing law allows, but does not require, a school district to include charter schools in a parcel tax. On principle, we believe in the importance of equity for all local public school students, including those in charter schools. Charter school parents are local tax-paying parents and their students deserve access to the same resources as other local public school students.

Certain big California school districts have worked with CCSA recently to take steps recently to provide a share of funding for charter schools under their voter-approved measures. Examples include San Francisco Unified's most recent parcel tax, Los Angeles Unified's most recent school construction bond, and San Diego Unified's most recent school construction and modernization bond.

CCSA has also been outspoken in its opposition to local measures that do not explicitly include a charter school share. The most effective way to influence a local ballot measure is to engage with the decision-making school board members early in the process, before the act to put the measure on the ballot. Including charter schools in the conversation from the early stages helps to solidify a charter school share. The threat of opposition can also be significant, especially on a parcel tax that requires a high two-thirds majority to pass. Any vocal public opposition to a two-thirds measure may be enough to stop it from passing.

Even after the measure has passed by the voters, it is possible to achieve a charter school share of locally approved funds under the law, unless the measure explicitly excluded charter schools, which is rare. In San Diego recently, for example, we worked with SDUSD to include a proportionate share of technology proceeds from their latest local measure to upgrade charter school classrooms with smart board technology and training for teachers, even though the measure had been silent on charter school participation.

For the upcoming November 2010 general election, CCSA staff is working with local officials on potential parcel tax measures in San Diego, Oakland, and San Francisco, and the Association's Regional Directors will play an active role across the state on parcel tax measures.

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