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Courtesy of Success Academy

Author’s Note: In this article, and study conducted by the University of Arkansas’ College of Education and Healthy Professions, TPS refers to Traditional Public Schools.

By Nehemiah D. Frank

TULSA, Okla. — The University of Arkansas’ College of Education and Health Professions found major funding disparities between public charters and traditional public schools. 

A team of education policy analysts (C. DeAngelis, P. Wolf, L. Maloney, and J. May) released a noteworthy report on Tuesday, indicating that public charter school students on a national average receive $5,828 less per-pupil than students who attend traditional public schools — even if the traditional public school’s test scores reveal consistent low academic performance.

The study found that, “students in public charter schools sacrificed over one-quarter of their educational resources [funding] by opting out of their traditional public schools. However, studies show that students whose parents opt them out of those traditional public schools usually more prepared for high school and beyond: 

“An examination of charter school achievement effects in 41 large metropolitan areas across the country showed that urban charters consistently have boosted student achievement and the gains for students from disadvantaged backgrounds have been large. The most recent systematic review of the most rigorous evidence shows that public charter schools have increased high school graduation and college enrollment.” 

Sadly, the per-pupil funding disparity between traditional public school students and students who attend public charter schools in Tulsa is 32%, a $3,752 funding gap.

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Public Charter Schools in Tulsa have consistently outperformed TPS, yet funding disparities persist. One pushback contributing to the funding disparities, teacher unions continue advocating against the public charter school movement. 

Jared Meyer brilliantly expressed in a Forbes’ opinion piece that, “The real reason for their opposition, of course, is that charter school teachers are not unionized. The reality is that charter schools are much more accountable to young people and their parents than are traditional public schools.” 

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Hence, high-performing urban public charter schools, like the ones listed above, continue receiving less funding despite the fact that public charter school students outperform traditional public school students in Tulsa. 

It’s important to highlight that most public schools receive additional funding form local property taxes. In the Tulsa area, public charter schools receive zero funding from property taxes, a 100 percent disparity gap with low performing TPS schools in Tulsa receiving $6,301 and high performing charters schools like Deborah Brown Community School and Sankofa School of Creative and Performing Arts receiving $0 in property taxes. Notably, these two public charter schools’ test scores rival that of suburban schools like Bixby and Owasso.

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Niche recognized Sankofa School of Creative and Performing Arts as the number one standout elementary school in the Tulsa area for 2019: 

“The 2019 Niche Standout Elementary Schools list recognizes public schools that are making a difference in their community. The ranking is based on rigorous analysis of key statistics and millions of reviews from students and parents using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Ranking factors include school diversity and state test scores for economically disadvantaged students. The list is limited to only schools with 1) at least 50% of students identified by the school as economically disadvantaged and 2) a Niche Overall Grade of B or higher.”

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Since 2013 in Tulsa, the local funding disparity gap has increased by 24 percent. Researchers of the study contributed the growing disparity to lack of local contributions from property taxes and private donors. 

Author’s Opinion

If Oklahoma’s mission is to close the academic achievement gap between racial cohorts, why does the State continue allocating more funding to low-performing traditional public schools in urban areas, with high-rates of out-of-school and in-school suspension and not academically high-performing public charter schools with astronomically lower suspension rates?

Why do traditional public school staff continue advocating for more funding, and get it, when public charters in Tulsa receive less while out-performing them and serving economically disenfranchised students?

If the objective is really about the students, we should reward and allocate more revenue — including property taxes — to academically high-achieving public charter schools at the same funding rates as traditional public schools in Tulsa.

Charter school students, their school administrators, teachers, and support staff shouldn’t be expected to do more while receiving less. 

Fact! Urban public charter schools do more with less not because they want to but because they know that they have to. Urban schools know that beyond their public charter school boarders that the only other option is red tape, no autonomy, cultural criticisms coupled with stigma and a continued school-to-prison pipeline at failing neighborhood schools with first-year teachers and high teacher turnover. 

Local and State elected officials hold the power to end the funding disparity, this surmountable injustice, between high-performing public charter schools and traditional public schools across the State. 

Imagine what these public charter schools could do with ‘equal’ funding?

Don’t these public school students deserve equal funding? 

Nehemiah Frank

Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and executive editor of The Black Wall Street Times. He graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Oklahoma State University. A rising voice in America and an emerging leader in the education reform movement, Nehemiah frequently travels for speaking engagements around the country, is a blogger for Education Post, and has been featured on NBC as well as in Blavity and Tulsa People. Nehemiah is also a teacher at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts in Tulsa, OK, a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation honoree, a recipient of the 2017 METCares Foundation Community Impact Award, and a 2018 Oluko Fellow. He gave a TED Talk at The University of Tulsa in the spring of 2018. 

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