Raleigh, N.C. — As the 2015 session winds down, Senate leaders are trying again to pass a bill forcing local school districts to give more of their funding to charter schools.
A gut-and-amend bill unveiled in the Senate Finance Committee on Monday would make major changes to the law that dictates what revenue traditional schools do and do not have to share with charters.
Under current law, charters are entitled to the same per-pupil state and local funding as traditional public schools. But school districts have a list of types of revenue they can put into different funds to keep them out of the pot of money they must divide proportionally between traditional schools and charters.
That law, passed in 2010, allows local school districts to hold nine types of revenue out of the shared pot, which is known as the "local current expense fund." One type of funding that can be held out is sales tax revenue that is distributed ad valorem, or according to property value, rather than per capita.
Counties can choose whether to use the ad valorem or the per capita method to distribute local sales tax revenue to cities. If the county uses ad valorem, the school district could hold all of that money out of the shared pot.
Like a bill passed in April by the Senate, the new version of House Bill 539 would force school districts to share all local tax revenue proportionally by striking the ad valorem exception.
The bill would also make a big change to supplemental tax revenue allocation.
Under current law, if a district has passed a supplemental tax to help pay for schools, the school district sends only that additional funding to a charter school if a student lives in the tax district and the charter school is also located within the tax district. Under the bill, the per-pupil share of the supplemental tax district revenue would go along with a student from the tax district, even if the charter school is located outside the tax district.
Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, said the bill removes an artificial boundary placed into law by Democrats in 2010.
"The dollars should follow the children," Barefoot said. "Why shouldn’t your child still benefit from those dollars?"
Charters would also be entitled to a share of the "indirect costs" included in federal grant funding for nutrition and transportation programs, even though most charters do not provide school lunches or transportation. Grants for school technology would also have to be shared, even if they were written by and for a specific traditional school.
Money raised for activities like sports or band would not have to be shared.
North Carolina Association of School Administrators director Katherine Joyce, who said she had not seen the new bill until it was rolled out Monday afternoon, warned the committee that the changes "will have a significant negative impact on your school districts."
"This is making lots of changes in the delicate balance between funding for your public schools and funding for your charter students," Joyce said. "Your LEAs will be strongly opposed to it."
Joyce said her group had been in negotiations with charter proponents, but that the talks had broken down.
North Carolina Public Charter Schools Association spokesman Lee Teague is strongly in favor of the bill.
"Right now, there are parents in this state who are paying taxes for education that go to pay for other kids' education and not their own," Teague told WRAL News. "This bill fixes that."
The legislation passed Senate Finance and is scheduled for a full Senate vote later this week. Its fate in the House is uncertain. The earlier version of the legislation, sent to the House April 30, was referred to the House Rules Committee and has not been heard since.