Local school districts are picking up a larger tab for the state-authorized charter school system.
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) projects that 248 local school districts will be paying $516 million out-of-pocket to fund the 42,181 students enrolled in the 71 Commonwealth charter schools. This is an increase from the $455 million in out-of-pocket costs in FY2017.
Furthermore, the $516 million does not include other costs carried by the local school districts that may include busing, special education services or administrative costs.
The total cost for the Commonwealth charter schools is projected to clock in at $596.5 million when you include state reimbursements to districts. However, the amount of funding budgeted in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for state reimbursements to local districts has continued to be underfunded.
The FY2018 state budget will distribute $80.5 million in reimbursement to local districts for charter school tuition – marking the fourth consecutive year that the Massachusetts state budget will significantly under fund the charter school reimbursement. FY2018 tuition reimbursement is a mere 50% of the projected $156.5 million that districts are entitled to receive under state law. In FY2015 the state funded 69% of the reimbursement entitled to districts, 62% in FY2012 and 59% in FY2017.
This shortfall is carried entirely by the sending districts where the students reside -and. by extension, the local taxpayers who have no authority or input into the establishment or budgeting of the charter schools for which they provide funding.
*We updated our numbers to reflect new data from DESE. What you see here is the most recent information available. If there are significant changes, we will create a new post.