Governor LePage signs charter school funding fix

LD 131 “An Act To Amend the Laws Related to Public Funding of Charter Schools” was signed May 8, 2015 by Governor LePage. Under the new law  Maine DOE will make monthly payments directly to approved public charter schools starting in FY16, the same way the Department has long distributed funds to traditional public school districts.

Currently, districts that lose students to public charter schools are billed directly by the receiving charter school. The Maine DOE will provide financial relief to traditional school units since they no longer must include these payments in their annual budgets.

The new funding method will relieve the unpredictable financial impact of charters to individual (sending) districts and was overwhelmingly supported by leaders of Maine’s school districts, including the 100 or so that now have at least one student enrolled in one of the state’s five bricks-and-mortar charter schools or the virtual Maine Connections Academy. The change also allows Maine to move beyond the divisive debate about charter school funding and refocus on how to create opportunities for students to be most successful at Maine public schools, whether they be charters or traditional.

Funding calculations for the public Charter schools are based on prior year Oct. 1 student counts plus estimated counts for those public charter schools that have increased enrollment ceilings established by the Maine Charter School Commission. Funding would include allocations for students who are economically disadvantaged, limited English proficient, and/or require targeted funds or special education services. If the public charter is eligible, allocations for transportation and gifted & talented will also be provided.

Phased rollout

Current: No change. In the current 2014-15 school year (FY15), the local school district must continue to forward the local and State shares of their Essential Programs and Services (EPS) funding allocations to the public charter schools for those resident students attending these charter schools. The prior year subsidy counts for the majority of these students were included in the school unit’s FY15 funding calculation.

Phase I: Starting in the 2015-16 school year (FY16), the local school district will no longer need to forward the local and State shares of their EPS funding allocations to the public charter schools for those resident students attending these charter schools. The prior year subsidy counts for these students will be included in the school unit’s FY 16 funding calculation. This will result in a one-time savings to the school unit without loss of subsidy.

Phase II: In the fall of 2015, students attending public charter schools will be counted as residents of the charter schools and no longer residents of their former school district. This will have a similar effect as a student moving out of the school unit. As a result, the subsidy counts (used for FY17 funding calculations) will no longer be included in the former school district.

LD 131 “An Act To Amend the Laws Related to Public Funding of Charter Schools” can be found here.

For more information, please contact Maine DOE Director of School Finance and Operations Suzan Beaudoin at suzan.beaudoin@maine.gov or 624-6790.