Budget cuts to public charter schools are detrimental for students

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Why should one public school get more money than another? That’s precisely what New York State dictates for Rochester public charter schools in the 2025 executive budget.

John Claypool

While district schools will receive a 3 percent increase in foundation aid, public charter schools in Rochester will lose $227 per student. These cuts will be detrimental to the 28 percent of students who attend public charters in this city. Families and students who attend public charter schools should have the same educational opportunities as those at district schools in Rochester.

Public charters, like the one where I am regional superintendent of operations, Rochester Prep Schools, serve some of the most marginalized students in the district with the mission of delivering a high-quality education for all families that choose us.

The decrease in core aid funding will impact not only the students in our schools, but more than 9,000 students in Rochester’s 17 public charter schools. This is the result of the change in the prior year’s approved operating expense, which is a critical component of the charter funding formula, but it doesn’t have to be. More than 600 Rochester families have already signed a petition to ask for $2.1 million in bullet aid to fill the gap so students in charter schools can be treated the same as students in district schools.

If we don’t get additional funding at Rochester Prep schools, we will have to cut back on key services for our students. For example, for the past two years, a small group of Rochester Prep students across all three of our middle schools have engaged in Reading Futures – an intensive tier 3 research-based reading intervention program for students with significant decoding and fluency needs. With the proposed budget cuts, the students in this group could lose out on what may be their last opportunity to develop the foundational reading skills they need to access and comprehend the world around them.

Legend, a current sixth grader at our Chili middle school, joined Rochester Prep as a fourth grader, with significant decoding and fluency gaps – which made accessing grade-level content extremely difficult.  Fortunately, his team of teachers partnered him with Reading Futures, and within months, teachers noticed a change in Legend, both in his capacity to read and his confidence to participate in class. Unfortunately, with the proposed budget cuts, Legend and several of his peers will lose out on this crucial reading intervention program.

We will need to reduce certain support staffing roles, like having apprentice teachers in training and teaching assistants to support classroom learning. We will do everything in our power to preserve our core staffing, but these are some of the decisions we face, given the decrease in funding.

We will also possibly have to shorten the length of the school year. In addition to our longer school day, we typically offer families an additional five days of school, but it comes at a price of nearly $30,000 per day for bussing at Rochester Prep’s seven schools, as the district does not provide transportation on days they are not in service, and we must pay the bussing companies separately.

The truth is that Rochester is one of the lowest-performing and least-funded districts in the country, but we want to change that. In the past decade, studies show Rochester charters have one of the largest funding deficits in nearly 20 urban areas. Yet, our schools are delivering for students. Last year, a Center for Research on Education Outcomes study showed that New York charter school students gained 75 days of reading and 73 days of math from 2014 to 2019 over traditional public-school students, leading to higher test scores over time.

Charters like Rochester Prep, which belong to Uncommon Schools charter management organization, outperformed the Rochester City School District in the state tests in 2023 by 47 percentage points in math and by 22 percentage points in English Language Arts. We made a promise to families and are working hard to deliver a top-notch education for anyone who applies to our schools. After all, we are public schools, too. We are free and open to all.

We have never had the same funding as traditional public schools, but this is the first year we will see a decrease for the next school year. Families should not be penalized for selecting to send their children to a public charter school they feel is better for their children.

All public schools serve the same mission: delivering a quality education for all students. All schools should have adequate funding to ensure students succeed. The 2024-2025 budget should include $2.1 million to bridge the financing gap for Rochester public charters. No parent wants to see their child have access to fewer resources in school. Neither do we.

John Claypool is regional superintendent of operations at Rochester Prep, part of Uncommon Schools.

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2 thoughts on “Budget cuts to public charter schools are detrimental for students

  1. Charter students in Rochester, overwhelmingly Black and Brown receive 3/5 of funding of RCSD students. This is unfair, unjust, and is what one might expect from the Democratic Party of 1860. The charter schools in Rochester should receive the $2.1 million in bullet aid, as well as a 3% increase in aid. This will still not be equitable, but it is a start at fairness.

  2. Educational jealousy. Who knew that such a statement could even make sense. It does with education. Especially in the RCSD. Why? Because public education is and has been a failure, period. So what do you do about that failure? Well you short change those who are successful and bring, or at the very least attempt, to lower the bar. That is the only thing that has indicated educational success in the RCSD. For example, the RCSD wants to take over the East High U of R project. You know what will happen? It will bring East High back in line with the abject failure. If you doubt that, why doesn’t the RCSD replicate what has been successful with the East High take-over? They are incapable as a system. They have proved that with the numbers over the past decades. Charter schools are the “enemy” because they have shown success that the RCSD is incapable of matching. Period. It’s that simple.

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