Thank you, co-chairpersons and members of the Joint Finance Committee, for hosting this hearing today and the opportunity to speak with you. My name is Sean Roberts, I’m the Executive Director for the Milwaukee Charter School Advocates-- a non-profit organization that represents the independent charter schools in Milwaukee and Racine. Of our 30 schools that operate this year, they enroll more than 10,000 students whose families live all over Milwaukee and into Racine. I’m here today to talk about a crucial issue for the continued success of independent charter schools- per-pupil funding.
As you may be aware, state aid in per-pupil funding has remained flat for the past 5 years for independent charter schools, while costs have continued to increase by 2-3% each year. While our schools are grateful for the increase proposed in the governor’s budget of 1% each of the next two years, it is not to ensure that the highest performing sector of public schools in Milwaukee remain viable options for students and families.
Several upcoming state mandates will continue to cost independent schools more money out of the classroom. Additionally, with federal funds in the form of charter school planning grants made to DPI facing an uncertain future, independent charters’ sustainability is in jeopardy. In fact, Macke Raymond, a nationally-respected Stanford University researcher recently indicated that Wisconsin has one of the largest funding discrepancies between independent charter schools and traditional public schools in the country.
Our proposal for increasing the amount of per-pupil funding for independent charters, which I have provided you copies of, results in only a slight increase in the budget over the governor’s proposal, costing just $7m over the biennium ,but will have a dramatic impact on independent charter schools’ abilities to effectively serve high-need students. We also propose that the budget restore the language currently in law that links future per pupil increases for independent charters to the public school levy limit.
Schools like Milwaukee College Prep, a K-8 grade school that serves predominantly low-income students, and has a 93% high school graduation rate, should not have to fundraise $1 million annually to provide and expand extremely successful educational outcomes for kids. The state’s current approach to funding independent charters puts it and other schools in that unsustainable position. It is time for the state to do right by the over 10,000 students who attend these highly successful independent charter schools. We are committed to working with you, the rest of the state legislature, and the governor to make it happen.
Thank you .