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How are Charter Schools Funded?

September 25, 2011

Charter schools are public schools. Like district public schools, they are funded according to enrollment (also called average daily attendance, or ADA), and receive funding from the district and the state according to the number of students attending. The ways and amounts at which charters are funded compared to their district counterparts differ dramatically in an individual state and even in individual communities within a state. Nationwide, on average, charter schools are funded at 61 percent of their district counterparts, averaging $6,585 per pupil compared to $10,771 per pupil at conventional district public schools.

Unlike traditional district schools, most charter schools do not receive funding to cover the cost of securing a facility. Conversion schools begin with established capital, namely the school and its facilities. A few states provide capital funding to start-up schools, and some start-up schools are able to take over available unused district space, but most must rely on other, independent means. Recent federal legislation provides funding to help charters with start-up costs, but the task remains imposing.