5. Suggested Statutory Changes
The biennial report must include “suggested changes in State law necessary to strengthen charter schools.” To address this required element, Charter Schools were asked to review a list of suggested amendments to the Illinois Charter Law and indicate which suggested amendment they would support. As evidenced from the below chart, the No. 1 requested amendment by charter schools—cited by 33 of 36 charter schools responding to the 2009-2010 survey, and 35 of 42 charter schools responding to the 2010-2011 survey—was to allocate additional operating funds to charter schools beyond the per capita assistance from the authorizing charter school.
Under the Law, charter schools must receive not less than 75 percent nor more than 125 percent of the school district’s per capita student tuition, multiplied by the number of students enrolled in the charter school who are residents of the school district. Both of the state-authorized charter schools, Prairie Crossing and Southland College Prep Charter High School, receive a reimbursement rate of 100 percent of the resident school district’s per capita student tuition. ISBE does not currently have comprehensive data on the average per capita funding rate provided to district-authorized charter schools by their authorizing school districts. On surveys returned by charter schools, CPS charter schools indicated that they receive toward the bottom end of the statutory range for per capita funding, or in some cases reported a belief that they receive less per capita funding than is required by statute. A number of charters also reported that they must devote considerable energies toward private fundraising in order to offset funding deficits. ISBE is currently working with Chicago Public Schools to better understand its charter funding practices.
The Illinois Charter Law provides for transition impact aid for school districts during the initial term of a new charter school, in order to offset the impact of the charter school on the district’s budget. Specifically, the law provides that a school district with a new charter school is entitled to receive aid equal to 90 percent of the per capita funding paid to the charter school during the first year of its initial charter term, 65 percent of the per capita funding paid to the charter school during the second year of its initial term, and 35 percent of the per capita funding paid to the charter school during the third year of its initial term. Unfortunately, because of the current fiscal climate, transition impact aid has not been available to school districts since fiscal year 2009. The absence of transition impact aid may in part account for lower charter funding levels and the reluctance of school districts outside of Chicago, especially smaller school districts, to consider a charter option for their districts.
Survey respondents also indicated in high numbers that they would support a change in the Charter Law to provide additional operational funding in the forms of facilities financing, transportation funding, and State start-up grants.
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