Charter School Funding

Charter schools are publicly funded (receiving a sum per pupil) and are open to any resident of the District of Columbia. The estimated budget for 2011 in D.C. was $9.46 billion. About 20 percent ($1.99 billion) was earmarked for public education. The education budget was divided into several sectors, including public schools, charter schools and special-education transportation. Proponents of charter schools contend that the per-pupil funding system creates competition for DCPS schools; if public schools do not perform well and enrollment decreases, they will lose money. As of 2008, a charter school in the District received $11,879 in tax dollars for each elementary student enrolled: $8,770 to match per-pupil academic spending in the regular public schools, and a $3,109 facility allotment to help pay for buildings. Charter schools receive more in per-pupil allotments for older students. With relative financial autonomy, charter schools with over 300 students may find that their funding exceeds their costs; many successful charters have budget surpluses. There is a correlation between top-performing charter schools and extra funding; schools with the largest budget surpluses have ranked at the top in test scores. Charter schools also receive funding from bank loans and from a congressionally created panel, the D.C. Public Charter School Credit Enhancement and Direct Loan Funds Committee, which also provides private loans to developers who build charter schools.

Charter-school teachers are not unionized; pay and benefits are determined by the schools.