We have just completed our budget process and approval for our operating budget for the 2018-2019 school year. During the process of building the budget and communicating with the public, it became clear that there were some misconceptions regarding how charter schools are funded in Orange County.
The State of North Carolina has specific legislation for the funding of charter schools. Families across our state, including Orange County, are choosing to educate their children in charter schools for a variety of reasons. Many families are still choosing to educate their children in traditional public schools. I tend to refrain from the use of the term traditional public schools because the innovation we have happening in our schools is a far cry from the more traditional experience many of us had in school. What appears to be unclear in our community is how charter schools are funded and how much from our local government.
State funding for charter schools and traditional public schools comes directly from the state to the individual charter school or public school system based on average daily membership of students. Both charter schools and traditional public schools receive additional state funding for students with disabilities and those that are limited English proficient. Local funding for schools located in Orange County comes directly from the Board of County Commissioners. We live and work in a community that cares deeply about all students. The Board of County Commissioners uses a funding model that is different from that of the majority of school systems in North Carolina. The Board of County Commissioners in Orange County funds each and every student whether they attend a traditional public school or charter school at the exact same per pupil amount. During the 2017-2018 school year there were 8,072 students residing in the Orange County Schools district, with 7,544 of those attending Orange County Schools. The amount of funding received per student from the Orange County Board of County Commissioners was $3,991. The Orange County Board of County Commissioners sends the per pupil funding directly to Orange County Schools. We work directly with charter schools to verify student enrollment and residency and at that time send the local appropriation directly to the charter schools.
It is important for the community to understand that we simply serve as a “pass through” for the local appropriation received from the county and that whether a student is in one of our schools in Orange County Schools or a charter school; each organization is receiving an equal local per pupil allocation from the county. Orange County Schools does not receive double the amount of funding per charter student despite some misconceptions that have been communicated to the larger community. The attached diagram serves as a very simple depiction of how the funding is allocated to the different entities. Our community needs to know that the Board of County Commissioners makes all students in Orange County a priority and that we remain good stewards of their investment in public education.