Stephen Sugarman, Education Policy Analysis Archives
August 9, 2002

In this short policy brief, Stephen Sugarman explores eight complications of charter school funding-challenging issues that require the attention of policy wonks and policymakers. He lists four inconsistencies in our current system of financing public schools and then explores their impact on charter school funding. While much attention has been paid to spending inequalities across and within school districts, for instance, Sugarman notes that these inequalities often create undesirable incentives when charter schools enter the picture. For example, if charter schools are funded at a level equal to per pupil spending in the districts that charter them, then resource-poor, low-spending districts-which may have the most to gain from charter schools-may have trouble attracting charter operators. The author goes on to describe some tricky issues that relate to charter school funding in particular-whether per pupil funding should be based on the number of pupils enrolled in a school or the number who attend regularly, for instance, or whether virtual charter schools serving home schooled students should be funded at the same rate as brick-and-mortar charter schools. The strength of the charter movement may depend on solving some of the more vexing funding issues, and Sugarman notes that efforts by state legislatures to rationalize charter school funding mechanisms may also lead to improvements in the funding of regular public schools. The brief is available online at

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