Colorado Judges Rule in Favor of Funding Fairness for Charter Schools

Okay, the year is almost over. And you won’t see me writing anything here between now and 2009. So I thought it a good idea to close out 2008 with a post that has some good news.

In yesterday’s Rocky Mountain News, Berny Morson reported on a Colorado court decision that almost got completely overlooked. But it definitely is good news:

School districts must apply the same funding rules to charter schools as they do other schools, the Colorado Court of Appeals has held in a Fort Collins case.

At issue is a provision inserted by the Poudre R-1 school board in the contract that governs the Ridgeview Classical Schools, a charter school.

The provision allowed the district to reduce financial support to Ridgeview when students transfer out. [link added]

Basic and simple fairness, right? Students should benefit from the same funding rules whether they are in a traditional public school or a public charter school. Either it’s a good idea to take funds away from a school when a student transfers after the fall attendance count, or it’s not. It shouldn’t be a good idea for charters and a bad idea for others, or vice versa.

And while we’re at it, why not apply the same fairness principle to bond revenues for facility construction, maintenance, and renovation? School districts should share and share alike with the charters they have authorized, or lose their oversight. Financial fairness for charter schools may be one of the next frontiers in Colorado education reform.

To understand where the problem comes from in the case between Poudre and Ridgeview, read the end of the Rocky Mountain News story:

If the ruling stands, the district will have to refund money taken from Ridgeview during the two years the contract was in effect, said Barry Arrington, the lawyer who represented the school. He wasn’t sure how much money is owed.

Ridgeview and the Poudre school district have been feuding for years. The Colorado Board of Education came down on the side of the school in 2006.

Ridgeview consistently scores among the top schools in statewide achievement tests. The high school portion was tops in the state in 2005 and 2006. [emphasis added]

For now we’ll enjoy the progress that has been made. Kudos to the judges for recognizing the basic fairness in the Ridgeview case. Now let’s hope we can apply the principle more thoroughly.

Last reminder for those 11th-hour Christmas shoppers. Your favorite edu-blogging prodigy’s Matchbox car collection needs a boost. Classic sports cars, Indy racers, and all kinds of trucks are especially welcome.