A legislative proposal to direct more money towards charter schools is a half a step in the right direction. The idea is that if a child leaves a district school to go to a charter school, some of the locally raised money goes with the student to the charter school.
Is send local money to a school that isn’t controlled by the local board of education an untested idea? Not at all. Small towns in Maine and Vermont have been doing this for over 130 years. Under “town tuitioning” arrangements, the local government collects tax money, which children can use to spend at public or non-religious private schools elsewhere. Some of the students even attend out-of-state schools with the money. Between the two states, about 12,000 students get their schooling this way.
It’s a beautiful approach. It recognizes the widely held belief that government should levy and collect taxes to pay for the formal education of children, and still lets local taxpayers decide how much they pay for education. At the same time, it gives parents and students a choice in where the children will be schooled.
The Minnesota proposal helps address the disadvantage that charter schools when it comes to funding, so it should help encourage their development. Families will benefit from more choices in pedagogy, curriculum, and school calendars
But there’s one significant limitation: The money goes with the child to the charter school only if the school is inside the geographic boundaries of his district. Such a policy discourages the charter school from accepting students from a larger area. A charter school in Minneapolis would get extra money from students who live in Minneapolis, but not from students who live in Bloomington, for example. Charter schools must by law have open enrollment policies, but the differential funding would give them incentives to find creative ways to keep out children who lived outside certain lines on the map.
The limitation also means that if you want your child to attend a charter school that lies outside the confines of your local district, you will (effectively) be shortchanging the charter school.
I suppose the limitation is one way to limit the amount of money that flows from districts to charters. If that is a concern, however, other ideas should be in play, such as lowering the percentage of the local money that can be transferred.
Still, give Rep. Kelly Woodard, the author of HF1860, credit for advancing the idea.