(The Center Square) — Atlanta received a failing grade for its charter school funding gap.
A new report from the School Choice Demonstration Project, an educational research project within the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform, examined funding disparities between traditional public schools and public charter schools in 18 cities nationwide.
The “Charter School Funding: Little Progress Towards Equity in the City” report studied federal, state, local and nonpublic funding during the 2019-20 school year.
According to the report, the average charter funding gap in the 18 cities was $7,147, or 29.5%. The report found that at roughly 52.7% or $13,809, Atlanta has the largest percentage-based charter funding disparity of the 18 cities studied.
“In Atlanta, part of the issue here is just driven by the composition of schools, so there are a large number of students in cyber charters, and they get much less funding,” Josh McGee, an economist and a faculty member in the Department of Education Reform, said during a briefing call with reporters. “Part of the challenge is these different types of schools receiving very different funding.”
Removing cyber charter students from the calculation, the total average for Atlanta public charter schools is $12,394 per pupil. Looking only at the funding available to the Georgia Cyber Academy, they would receive $7,517, significantly less than the average, meaning that the charter schools authorized by Atlanta Public Schools or the state are receiving significantly more at $16,780 per pupil, said Larry Malone, president of Aspire Consulting.
Traditional public schools in Atlanta receive $26,203 per pupil compared to the brick-and-mortar charters of $16,780.
Atlanta has a total public school enrollment of 64,984 students, and roughly 36.3% of students attend a charter school.
School choice is a hot-button issue that state lawmakers are likely to revisit when lawmakers reconvene in January. During this year’s session, Georgia lawmakers scuttled Senate Bill 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, to create state-funded education savings accounts. Nearly all Democrats and some Republicans voted against the measure.
A school choice expert told The Center Square last month he thinks Georgia lawmakers are likely to pass school choice legislation.
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor