Chicago charter schools will be receiving millions of dollars that Chicago Public Schools has withheld from them since April. After months of disagreements between the school district and charter school officials over how charter schools should be funded, CPS released its charter schools budgets Friday.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement to provide charter budgets that are equitable and aligned to district-run schools, and we thank our charter partners who have worked in good faith toward a strong resolution that benefits students,” said CPS CEO Janice Jackson.
Charter schools, which are publicly funded but run by private organizations, are getting their budgets two months after CPS announced how much its district-run schools were getting.
By withholding the budgets of 119 charter schools and the last quarter of school year payments, districts officials were pushing charter school operators into accepting a deal that calls for a per pupil funding formula similar to that used by the school district to fund its traditional public schools.
This new agreement is a blow for charter school advocates who wanted to follow a funding formula that could yield more dollars to charters over time. But Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, said he wouldn’t characterize the recent agreement as a loss.
“CPS wanted a change in the statute in Springfield, we were open to that, but we didn’t agree to that eventually, and the resolution we achieved didn’t require a change in Springfield,” Broy said. Instead, he said they agreed on a student-based budget that fits that model. “So I think this was a joint agreement in which both sides benefited and in which both sides got clarity.”
Broy adds this agreement is “a strong and positive step forward.”
Three charter schools and a charter network have not signed the agreement. They are Alain Locke Charter School, Chicago Math and Science Academy, Great Lakes Academy, and the seven LEARN campuses.
The school district said those operators haven’t received their last quarter payments, withheld in April, or their next school year budgets. They won’t get their money until they sign.
The conflict stems from years of disagreement over how charter schools should be funded. In the past, CPS funded charters using a per pupil amount it set annually, similar to the way the school district funds its traditional public schools.
After the new state funding law passed in 2017, the district was required to pay out between 97% and 103% of per capita tuition, which is a much broader formula that divides the total CPS budget by the number of students enrolled. Before 2017, CPS had been required to provide only between 75% and 125% of the per capita tuition — a change charter school leaders like Broy considered a big win for charter schools.
Under the 2017 state formula, charter schools got a $37 million boost the first year — but CPS officials have argued that, in this current year, charter schools owe the district $38 million.