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Report: Funding varies between traditional and charter schools

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A new report cites funding disparities between traditional schools and charter schools in Minnesota and across the country.

According to the University of Arkansas study, in 2011 Minnesota charters received about 8 percent less money per pupil than traditional schools, a difference of about $1,000. In Minneapolis the funding gap was 34 percent, and in St. Paul it was 23 percent.

Charter schools are public schools, but they are freed from some of the requirements that traditional schools must follow. By design, that autonomy is intended to allow charters to try innovative approaches like longer school days or creative curriculum.

On average, Minneapolis charter schools received $6,381 less than district schools and St. Paul charters received an average of $3,793 less. The difference comes from the varying tax levy amount that each district has in place.

Al Fan, executive director of the Minneapolis-based group Charter School Partners, said district schools can levy tax payer dollars for building projects and operating expenses.

"The one gap in funding has always been the inability of charter schools to have access to the property tax funded dollars, both the operating levies and the bond money," he said.

Fran said lawmakers could fix the disparity by giving charters some of the money that traditional districts receive in property tax levies.

"I think we should look at taking some of the property [tax] dollars that are being allocated to operating levies and reallocating that to charters, especially the highest performing charters," he said.

In 2013 Minnesota lawmakers made changes to the state education funding formula to send more state support to districts without levies. Fan said those changes will help charters schools in coming years, but won't come close to erasing the disparity in funding.