Charter schools ruling worries city board

Panel fears court-ordered funding would mean less money for other schools

September 07, 2006|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,Sun reporter

After meeting in executive session, the Baltimore school board issued a vaguely worded statement Tuesday night saying it remains a strong supporter of charter schools but believes a recent court ruling requiring additional funding for charters would hurt regular schools.

A ruling Friday by the Court of Special Appeals requires school systems to spend as much money per pupil on charter schools as they spend on regular public schools.

The city school board's statement leaves open the possibility that it will appeal the decision by the state's second-highest court, saying it "feels obligated to fully consider its legal options."

The ruling "no doubt would pose a financial hardship on the vast majority of our traditional schools, which ironically could result in these schools receiving less money per student than charter schools," the statement says.

Charter schools are publicly funded but operate independently under contracts with local school boards.

Maryland has 24 charter schools, 17 of them in Baltimore.

The city spends the equivalent of about $11,000 per child in its regular public schools.

Charter schools in the city receive $5,859 per child in cash and the rest in services that the school system provides, such as special education and food.

Two city charter schools, City Neighbors and Patterson Park Public, appealed that formula to the state school board in 2005, saying it limited their ability to choose how to provide services.

The state school board ruled in the charter schools' favor, and the city school system appealed that decision in court.

"All we're asking for is parity," said Bobbi Macdonald, president of the City Neighbors board. "We're not asking for anyone to spend more money on charter school kids."

Will DuBois, an attorney for City Neighbors, said yesterday that the court and the state school board have agreed on a funding model that achieves parity.

He said the charter schools hope to meet with school system officials to discuss the court's ruling "and move forward working toward the interest of all public school students."

The school board's statement says the system is "fully committed to complying with the law."

School board Chairman Brian D. Morris said yesterday that the system is analyzing the financial impact of the ruling. He declined further comment.

sara.neufeld@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Gina Davis contributed to this article.

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