PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island’s public charter schools may not receive adequate state funding to address their unique challenges, according to a new report released Wednesday by the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools.
The report – produced in conjunction with the Colorado League of Charter Schools and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools – is based on information from all 16 public charter schools currently operating in Rhode Island, which comprise a total of 20 charter school facilities statewide.
Rhode Island’s charter schools serve approximately 5,000 students or 3.5 percent of the state’s public school population.
“The report confirms what we have been saying for years – Rhode Island’s charter public schools have been treated unfairly in regards to facilities support,” said Stephen Nardelli, executive director of the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools, in a release. “Not only does this impact our schools fiscally, but it affects how our schools can operate best to support students.”
According to survey, enrollment and operating-revenue data collected at charter schools in Rhode Island for the 2012-2013 academic year, the typical charter school spends $729, or 6 percent of its per-pupil revenue, on its facility. The typical per-pupil revenue for Rhode Island charter schools during the academic year was $13,507.
Charter schools that own their school facility spend slightly less per-pupil than schools that rent their facility from a private entity, while schools that use facilities provided by a public entity such as a public school district or government agency pay the least.
“The more you take for the facility from your operating funds, the less you can spend on your education programs,” said Nardelli in a phone interview. “Charter schools are required to take more from their operations aid to support their facilities than traditional schools.”
The report stated that only 30 percent of charter school facilities meet or exceed size standards prescribed by School Planning & Management, an industry magazine that publishes an annual school construction report. Only 47 percent of classrooms at charter schools meet or exceed size standards.
“To address this challenge, Rhode Island charters often find other means to provide students with the education services offered by traditional public schools,” the report said. “These charters pay an average of $4,467 extra per year for renting [more space] and an additional $2,500, on average, to transport the students to the off-site facilities.”
Half of Rhode Island’s charter schools lack a dedicated library, according to the report, while 75 percent lack a dedicated science lab and 20 percent lack both an art room and a music room.