Critics say charter schools overburden state budget

Charter schools vs Public schools. (August 7, 2017) [Source: 3TV/CBS 5]

Arizona has a higher percentage of students in charter schools than any other state.

Critics say the growing enrollment is having a negative impact on public school students.

"The state isn't funding charter schools the way they're funding public schools. They're putting a vast amount more amount into charter schools than public schools. That depletes the education fund, so schools don't have the money to hire teachers and so on because we're spending additional money for charter students," said Jim Hall, with the group "Arizonans for Charter School Accountability."

Hall released a report which says the 15 percent of students enrolled in charters receive 26 percent of the state's K-12 education budget.

He says the governor and Legislature are "stealing" from public schools.

"It's costing us a lot of money as children leave public schools to go to charter schools," Hall said.

Eileen Sigmund, director of the Arizona Charter Schools Association disagrees, "He's cherry-picking his numbers from the state general fund versus all sources of revenue," said Sigmund, "It's not an apples-to-apples comparison."

Charter schools get between $1,700 and $2,000 per pupil from the state, but do not get money from bonds or local property taxes.

"If a child comes from a rich district like Scottsdale, that's an area that doesn't get much state money because property taxes pay for most of the education there," Hall said.

"Arizona should be celebrating because we empower families to choose the best for their child or children. Having a choice to not have to move into a zip code specifically for the school is wonderful. There's no one size fits all for our children," Sigmund said.

Hall says he is not opposed to school choice, but rather, the way charter schools are funded by the state.

"Open enrollment is a good thing, but there's an unequal playing field and public education is getting the short end of the deal," Hall said.

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