“It’s really not a matter of whether it’s ‘state’ money or ‘locally raised’ money that’s being transferred,” writes Rutgers University professor Bruce Baker in an email. “It’s about the fact that kids are shifting to charters, and money for district schools is declining at a pace whereby the district cannot possibly immediately, efficiently adjust its budget and use of space.”In Little Rock, there are multiple school districts where there used to be one, with one of the largest, eStem, currently creating not only problems for LRSD, but for UA Little Rock, made home to a high school on a campus inadequate to handle it.
Indeed, the ebb and flow of charter schools make it near impossible for school districts to precisely predict enrollment, staffing, transportation, and facilities needs. And because public schools must, by law, accommodate all students, public school administrators are in the awkward position of having to anticipate the greatest need without knowing for sure the students will show up. And should students who transferred to charters at the beginning of the year come back mid-year, the per-pupil funding doesn’t come back with them.
Baker also finds fault in the inefficient way charter schools are configured with their own separate governing boards, separate administrative and teaching staffs, separate facilities, and separate transportation (if they happen to offer it).
“It’s just inefficient,” Baker contends. “Running two systems in a common space is just less efficient and more expensive than running one.”