Arizona Charter Schools: A Culture of Confusion

By Selena Makrides | Dec. 8, 2015

Great Hearts' Interim CEO Christine Jones believes that “no child should have to get lucky to have a fine public school education.”

But with funding shortages, can charter schools really offer a valid alternative to district schools?

See the full story here.

A substantial sixteen percent, or 170,000, of all Arizona students attend a charter school, according to the Arizona Charter School Association's President Eileen Sigmund. Despite their persistence in the education community, confusion remains about the distinction between districts and charters. Laying at the center of this confusion is really a question of funding. Most simply, who gets more?

This question is a contentious one; each "side", so to speak, claims that the other receives more state money.

Both receive a per-pupil dollar amount called "Base Level Support", which is all but equal in 2015. Unlike district schools, charters are prohibited from accessing bonds and overrides that can help supplement the cost of educating a student on a yearly basis.

However, charters do have access to what is called "Additional Assistance." This is another per-pupil amount which can be used at the charter schools' discretion to subsidize programs the state does not fund-transportation, before and after school care, free lunches and the like.

More often than not, though, charter schools do not implement these programs, choosing instead to charge parents individually for each extra expense. While paying upwards of $100 for their child to play a sport or picking up their child at the end of school day may be feasible for the average middle class family, it leaves many lower-income students out in the cold.

Both district and charter schools fall under the public school umbrella. Therefore, both receive a bulk of their funding from the state. However, monies are allocated to them from different "buckets" of funding. The above infographic compares district to charters and totals the amount each received per student in 2015.

Copy Editor | Selena Makrides

Media Editor | Katherine Fitzgerald

Graphic & Web Editor | Trisha Garcia

A collection of stories created by the 2015-2016 graduate students

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

555 N. Central Ave. Phoenix, AZ 85004

Copyright © 2015