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Cortines backpedals from statement that charters get more

Craig Clough | December 11, 2014

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LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines has corrected a statement he made at Tuesday’s board meeting, telling the members in an email that he erred in saying charter schools receive more in state funding than traditional public schools.

“One of the problems is the funding of charters versus regular schools. And the charters in the state get more money than the regular schools do,” he told the board. (Click on the above video to view his comments on charter funding.}

Board member Tamar Galatzan was not present during the discussion, but no other member challenged him. Monica Ratliff and George McKenna seemed to agree with him.

“He’s telling us the truth,” McKenna said. Ratliff added, “We need to discuss the impact of having different rules and different funding for traditional public schools versus our public charters.”

But Cortines took the comments back yesterday. In his email — a copy of which he sent to LA School Report  — he said: “After reflecting on statements I made last night concerning funding for charter schools and regular schools and speaking with staff to obtain clarification, it was made very clear to me that the law has changed since I last served as Superintendent. Charters do not appear to receive more funding than regular schools. Under the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), charters and regular schools are treated equally.”

He also asked for “budget staff to prepare a brief Informative to clear up this matter.”

Cortines served as interim superintendent for LA Unified for about six months in 2000, and as superintendent from 2009 to 2011. In October, he was named interim superintendent after the resignation of John Deasy.

It’s not clear, however, that any laws have changed since his previous years of service.

Some recent studies on the subject concluded that independent charter schools had been receiving less money, not more. A 2012 study by the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office and 2010 study by Ball State concluded that California charters got fewer dollars per pupil than traditional public schools.

Once the Local Control Funding Formula was enacted, it was heralded by charter movement leaders for leveling the funding playing field.

“Instead of being seen and treated as second-class citizens with separate funding streams constantly at risk of reduction or elimination, charter schools will now be funded in the same way that traditional public schools are funded,” California Charter Schools Association chief executive Jed Wallace wrote in a message to charter school operators, according to Ed Source.

The discussion that led to Cortines’ comments at the board meeting was the approval of a new independent KIPP charter school, which spawned a wider discussion on the financial impact independent charter growth may be having on the district, in particular a recent report from Moody’s Investor Service that concluded that the coming expansion of KIPP charter schools in LA Unified was a credit negative, as it will result in a loss of $35 million to the district.

*UPDATED to clarify research showing independent charter schools receive less money

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