The commentary focused on the lack of growth in the number of new schools, but the success of the charter school community should be based on quality first, focused on growth in student achievement, not just growth in the number of schools. There is ample evidence that independent charter schools in Milwaukee, as a whole, are exceeding the norm for student growth and achievement. In math and reading, for example, we know that since 2009 independent charter schools have outperformed traditional public schools with more students reaching “advanced” or “proficient” levels on the state’s WKCE (see details here.) Another detailed analysis concludes: Milwaukee's 2R Charters Lead All Schools in Student Growth, Closing Achievement Gaps.
While achievement is essential, money matters, too. One big accomplishment by the charter school community in 2013 was securing an increase in per-pupil funding for independent charter schools, which we define as the “non-instrumentality” and “2R” schools. This increase, of $300 per pupil annually, still leaves a gap of more than 30% between funds allocated per pupil to traditional public schools and independent charter schools. Wisconsin ranks among the lowest in the country for charter school funding, even though charter schools are public schools. According to a recent report Wisconsin received a “0” on a scale of 0 – 4 when ranked on “equitable operational funding” for charter schools and in another report the authors affirm Wisconsin’s large funding gap.
Our members have told us it is getting increasingly difficult to maintain their long-term success in student achievement with no parity in funding. Why does a group of the best performing schools in the state get sub-par funding? Well, as Borusk said in his commentary, “Money, precedent and politics have made the charter school picture complicated.”