Baltimore Charter Schools Challenge Funding

     BALTIMORE (CN) – Nine charter schools claim in court that the Baltimore city school system has not funded them according to state law.
     The schools say the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners has not met its obligation to “pass through to charter schools per pupil funding that is commensurate with the amount of funding received by the local public school board,” according to lawsuits filed last week.
     A charter school agreement between the schools and the board echoes the board’s legal requirement to fund charter schools equally compared to the Baltimore Public School System’s funding level, the court documents state.
     The schools that sued include Afya Public Charter School, Brehms Lane Elementary School, three City Neighbors charter schools, Green School of Baltimore, Patterson Park Public Charter School, Southwest Baltimore Charter School and Tunbridge Public Charter School. They filed their five complaints last Thursday in Baltimore City court.
     “Less funding is available to support the education of a student in the [charter] schools than would be available to the system if the same student were in a non-charter system school,” the complaint states. “Public funds to support those students’ educations are instead directed to other system activities.”
     The allegations come after a new funding formula was announced by commissioners last week that would reduce funding at 26 of the district’s 34 charter schools, leaving them struggling to pay for books and teachers, according to a Baltimore Sun report.
     The new formula proposes to fund charter schools based on their number of low-income students, give them more cash in lieu of services, and charge them more administrative costs, according to the Baltimore Sun.
     The charter schools claim that not only have they been shorted on the allocations made by the commissioners, but the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners has not proved them information on the methodology and assumptions behind budget calculations in breach of the contract.
     The city board has “arbitrarily presented charter school operators with take-it-or-leave-it charter school per pupil figures derived using varying, or no, calculation methodology, inflated estimates of overall system enrollment, and unsupported and dubious financial and budget figures,” the lawsuits state.
     The state charter school law, enacted by the Maryland General Assembly in 2003, “includes important requirements for the system staff to provide openness and transparency in the handling and allocation of these public funds,” according to the complaints.
     There are 34 charter schools in Baltimore, making up more than 15 percent of the city’s public school enrollment, the lawsuits say.
     The schools seek a judgment of at least $75,000. They are represented by F. William DuBois of Venable LLP in Baltimore.
     Requests for comment from the board and DuBois were not immediately returned.

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