Charter public schools are not funded fairly in Colorado. This is a problem that has long deserved our attention.
I’m a taxpayer and a parent. When taxpayers go to the ballot and agree to support their local school district through a mill levy override (MLO), there’s a reasonable expectation that this money will be shared equally with all schools — and all students — in the community. MLOs are voter-approved property tax increases that fund school operational expenses, such as personnel or programming.
The reality in Colorado, though, is that only 12 school districts equally share the funding they receive from MLOs with the charter public schools in their district. As a result, charter public schools receive, in aggregate, about $20 million less in MLO funding than traditional public schools.
Aurora Public Schools received funds from a MLO during the 2015-16 school year. However, the district shared only around half of what its six charter public schools should have received based on the percentage of district students they serve. This means that charter public schools received more than $2 million less than the traditional public schools in the district.
My son attends Aurora Academy Charter School while my two daughters attend Gateway High School, both of which are APS schools. Why should my children not receive the same funding, in the same district? This is not equal education and it is not what is right for my children.
Our legislature now has a chance to fix this unequal funding distribution.
Very soon, the Colorado Senate will vote on Senate Bill 61. This legislation states that if a MLO is passed for a specific program or operational need that a district charter public school offers, then the revenue generated by that MLO should go to charter public school students in that district on an equal per-student basis.
I know that funding for public education in Colorado is limited. Colorado students receive 22 percent less per-student than the national funding average. But families like mine who choose to send their children to charter public schools shouldn’t be doubly punished.
Sharing MLO money equally should be automatic. That would be fair.
Senators Rhonda Fields and Nancy Todd, I urge you to support Senate Bill 61 and do what’s best for all APS students.
Anne-Marie Pitcock is an Aurora charter public school parent