Alleging the Baltimore School District uses a funding formula that violates the laws of Maryland, a group of charter schools has brought suit in Circuit Court. Moreover, the lawsuit as filed claims the district’s actions negatively impact the schools’ ability to serve thousands of their students.
Dainique Dolly, a principal of one of the charter schools, stated, “We were hoping it would not come to this, but we’ve reached a point where we have to stand up for our children and families.” There are a total of eight charter schools listed in the lawsuit. These schools serve collectively at least 3,600 of the 13,700 students who are enrolled in charter schools in the district. This group also includes some of the schools considered as the highest-performing among all schools in the city.
According to the charter funding complaint, a proposed new funding formula would significantly hurt the economic survivability of the schools. The group claims the change is a violation of the contractual obligations of the city and would leave them unable to pay for teachers, books and other expenses.
City school leadership expressed dismay over the filing of the lawsuit, indicating they had hoped for additional discussion on the matter. Although they had not reviewed the documents the officials said they saw the new proposal as a way to “refine a model that ensures continuation of commensurate funding for all students and schools — charters and non-charters.”
Dolly responded that her group viewed the anticipated action from another perspective. She opined that the school district was “backsliding from a more transparent system, where funds follow children to the classroom, to the old ways of controlling dollars and centralized decisions.”
The controversy arises over the interpretation of the intent and literal meaning of state funding laws and formulas. According to the numbers, the district now spends about $15,000 per student per year. This includes direct allocations (totaling $9,387 in 2014) and services provided by the district. The literal interpretation of the funding formula would have the district providing approximately $13,000 to the charter schools for each student. The district contends this amount is neither practical nor sustainable.
It now appears that repeated failures at efforts at mediate the issue will now require the courts to sort it out.