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Charter school funding bill dead for session

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

A bill requiring county tax revenue be allocated to charter schools in the same manner it’s distributed to other public schools is dead for this legislative session, but not because of opposition to it.

Charter school advocates realized the Senate-passed bill had a few technical problems with funding language, sponsor Sen. Del Marsh told Alabama Daily News.  Instead of asking lawmakers to potentially have to fix the law later, they’ll try again next session with a new bill, Marsh, R-Anniston, said. He noted that charter school bills are often controversial.

“They’re public schools and they should get their share of the formula, but this is a never-ending battle,” Marsh said.

Separately, a supplemental appropriation bill approved in the Senate Thursday allocated $2.9 million in state funding to charter schools, to be distributed to them based on enrollment.

Marsh said that allocation is about $1,000 per charter school student.

There are currently eight start-up charter schools in the state and while they get federal and state funding, they don’t receive local money.

Emily Schultz, executive director of the advocacy group Alabama Families for Great Schools, said Thursday the organization is grateful to Marsh and Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, who sponsored the bill in the House.

“We decided that we needed to take another year to examine all local funding streams and their impact on local school systems, as well as public charter schools,” Schultz said. “It’s clear to us that we are not the only group of stakeholders that want to get this right and we look forward to working with our colleagues over the next year to put together a fair local funding mechanism for the 3,000 families who send their children to public charter schools.”

Currently, county level tax revenue dedicated to education is distributed among the county school system and any city systems in that county. Marsh’s bill would have allowed charter schools in a county to get a portion of that funding based on their annual enrollment. The bill did not impact cities’ funding of municipal school systems.

Last year, a bill requiring charter schools to get county and city education funding died, in part because of opposition from the Alabama Education Association and other groups. This year, that opposition appeared to have been eased.

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