What is the problem?
Louisiana's funding and accountability system have unintended incentives for charter schools to not serve a fair share of students with disabilities. SB267 will seek to provide equity into the system for students with disabilities.
According to data from the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) 29 of 30 Type II Charter schools received more money than they should have for the students they serve! The data from the LDOE indicate on average statewide Type II charter schools received $150,000 more than should have been provided based on the students they serve. The largest difference in funding inequity was one school receiving more than half a million dollars than anticipated for the students served in the school. Orleans Parish Type II Charter schools received on average more than $100,000 as would have been provided if an equitable funding formula was used. This resulted in Orleans Parish School System losing of $1.7 million dollars this year alone.
The funding differences reveals patterns in how most Type II charter schools do not serve the same populations or students as are found in traditional public schools.
Why does the money not necessarily follow the right students?
The Minimum Foundation Program, or MFP, is the formula for how elementary and high schools get their piece of $3,500,000,000 - that is 3.5 Billion dollars. While the formula is complex, the concept of how the formula creates inequities across schools is simple. Relative to the amount provided for students without disabilities, each student identified with a disability in a traditional public school system brings in 2.5 times as many dollars as a child without a disability. The amount of money taken from traditional public schools and provided to charter schools run by BESE and other school choice programs is determined by a different formula - an average amount of money which is the same amount for every student -regardless if the student has a disability or not.
Inequities in funding occur when schools serve different proportions of students with high cost needs, like students with disabilities.
Additional dollars are needed to provide services such as therapies (speech, occupational, Adaptive physical education, behavioral), services (e.g., nursing), devices (e.g., augmentative communication systems, medical equipment, adaptive equipment, etc.) and higher teacher ratios. Of course, no two students with disabilities have the same amount of services, but on average, it costs much more to serve students with disabilities. In today's world of competitive education, it seems necessary to ensure adequate resources are provided to schools based on student need and there should not be financial incentives for schools to avoid serving students with more needs.
Which school systems are not getting adequate funds to serve the students in their schools?
Typically, the imbalance works against the traditional public school system because it does not receive its fair share of funding; however, the funding inequity can, and does, work both ways. A charter school wishing to serve a student with a disability may not be receiving an adequate amount of funds needed to provide services to that student. Parents should not have to wonder whether the school received the right amount of funds to serve their student.
To understand the funding imbalance between traditional and charter schools click the link to watch the webinar: Louisiana Accountability and Funding Systems: Impact on Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities tend to not perform on standardized tests as do students without disabilities. So the more students with disabilities found in a school tends to lower the school's performance score (SPS). Charter schools with students scoring higher scores on standardized tests benefit in the accountability system by:
- Contract renewal (R.S. 17:3992(A)(2)(a))
- Designation of a "High-performing School" and automatic renewal
- Funding priority over other charter schools (17:3992(A)(3) and 17:3995(A)(6))
- Eligibility to open and operate two additional schools without formal application. (R.S. 17:3992(D))
- Avoiding risk of closure (or non-renewal)
- Attracting/advertising to get more students, and more students enrolled results in more funding