With the Texas legislative session well underway and the deadline to file bills passed, there are a few bills whose outcomes have the potential to positively influence charter school funding. These changes would mean increased funding for charter schools closer to that of their ISD counterparts, a property tax break on leased buildings which is currently offered to both private and traditional public schools, and a funding schedule more closely aligned to that of traditional ISDs to better offset the higher upfront start of school costs.
Our teachers have always been crucial to Uplift’s culture. They work longer school days and school years to provide our scholars with a high quality education despite less total funding to support their scholars. Charter schools currently receive about $1,000 less per student than their ISD counterparts- significantly impacting the resources available for teachers. In the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in teachers take to crowd sourced sites such as Donors Choose to make up for the gaps in funding and to provide their scholars with the best resources for learning. HB 3392 sponsored by State Representative Harold Dutton would give charter schools additional funding equal to the state per pupil average of the property taxes collected by ISDs. This additional appropriation would not reduce the amounts that traditional ISDs receive from the states.
Facilities funding is also an issue when it comes to charter schools that lease property. Charter schools do not receive at value property tax exemptions like other charitable organizations such as foundations, private schools, or youth associates that own their own property or use leased property exclusively for their charitable purpose. For one property leased by Uplift Summit International Preparatory that means a difference of $150,000 per year which could be put toward the salary of three additional classroom teachers. HB 1276 sponsored by State Representative Jim Murphy would provide ad valorem tax relief for charter schools leasing property.
Another funding challenge that high growth charters like Uplift face every year is the payment schedule of funds received from the state. Property wealth rich ISDs receive funds on schedule that pays out a more than half of the year’s funds within September and October. All charter schools receive funds on a monthly schedule that pays out 12 small equal payments of approximately 8.25 percent per month throughout the whole year. For high growth charters like Uplift, this is particularly challenging when taking in new students at a rate of 20 percent each year as it requires seeking additional external funds at the beginning of each school year in order to cover the additional upfront costs related to the start of school (e.g., curriculum, technology, instructional resources, etc). HB 2251 sponsored by State Rep. Rafael Anchia would make the charter and traditional ISDs schedules more equitable.
On April 8, members from the Uplift Education Board of Directors will travel to the state Capitol in Austin to advocate on behalf of Uplift. You can support Uplift and other high performing charter schools by visiting the Texas Charter School Association web site and learn how to get involved. There are more than 101,000 children on charter school wait lists across the state in need of high quality educational choices, and those children and their families need as many voices as possible to support high performing charter school efforts.