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Charter school advocates push for more state aid

Charter school advocates want state leaders to increase funding for their schools, which they say have suffered because they’ve had to divert money supplied for teachers and instructional programs in order to pay for and keep up their buildings.

The amount of funding charter schools receive per pupil from the state is less than what traditional public schools get per student. In Buffalo, that figure amounts to only 60 percent of what Buffalo Public Schools get per pupil, according to advocates from the Northeast Charter School Network, who held a Monday morning news conference at the Aloma D. Johnson Charter School on Jewett Parkway.

“For every $1 that a Buffalo public school student gets, a Buffalo public charter school student only gets three-fifths of that, and we think it’s wrong,” said Duncan Kirkwood, Western New York advocacy manager for the Northeast Charter School Network, an advocacy and membership organization for charter schools across the state and in Connecticut.

Most charter schools, except for many in New York City, don’t get money from the state for facilities costs, like traditional public schools do. Funding for charter schools also has been frozen at the state level for several years.

Charter school students in Buffalo are worse off than the state average – charter schools across the state typically receive 75 percent of what traditional public schools get per pupil, advocates said.

Those gathered at Monday’s news conference included charter school students, parents, teachers and school officials.

One of the parents was Ingrid Knight, who has a daughter who attends Elmwood Village Charter School and is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the state’s formula for funding charter schools. She said she believes in “all of our children’s right to an equal education.”

“New York State gives funding for all public schools, district and charter. We should share equally in those funds,” Knight said.

When the Aloma D. Johnson Charter School moved to its current site in 2014 after outgrowing a space on Michigan Avenue, school officials had to spend about $270,000 to improve the building, including to reconstruct classrooms and restrooms, said John A. Johnson, vice chairman of the school’s board of trustees. And on an annual basis, the school spends six figures to maintain and improve its facilities, he said.

“We are certainly losing money,” he said. “Especially, we, the members of the board of trustees, see a need for every dollar we put into building renovations. We need that dollar to go into the classroom, to work with teachers toward achievement of the young folk.”

Organizers of Monday’s event said they are signing up voters for school board elections and budget votes, as well as asking people to contact their state representative on the issue.