Posted on April 18, 2019

Charter Schools Claim They Are Losing Millions in Tax Revenue to KC District

Mará Rose Williams, Kansas City Star, April 18, 2019

Charter schools in Kansas City say they are shortchanged about $15 million a year in funds that for years has been diverted to Kansas City Public Schools. But they are going to have to change Missouri law to get it.

District officials are fighting the efforts because they don’t believe the charters should get anywhere near the amount they claim from the pot of public money they are supposed to share. And they say wording in proposed legislation could put district grants and philanthropic gifts in jeopardy.

But if something isn’t done, growth in enrollment at charters, coupled with declines at district schools, could leave charters short millions more.


Whatever the amount, charters, which are also public, say the money is rightfully theirs but it’s been going into district coffers for more than a decade because of a kink in the law.

“We don’t have the same numbers, but there is no dispute between us that local tax dollars, which are public funds, ought to be shared equitably between the district and the charters, and right now they are not,” said Dean Johnson, executive director of Crossroads Charter Schools.

At issue are school funding streams derived from various taxes.


The discrepancy is not the fault of the KCPS district. The fault, officials say, lies in the law and the rigidity with which it was written.


{snip} As property values have risen, charters claim they have not received their fair share, that their portion is stuck in 2005.

On top of that, charters say other local funding streams aren’t shared with them. All of those dollars go to the district. Not fair, they say.

Not our fault, says Quinley. “We are just following what the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education prescribes.”

State charter school officials figure the district is receiving roughly $2,000 per student a year more than charters.

Quinley says there is another problem with the charters’ calculations: “They are assuming that all the tax dollars billed are collected,” she said. A lot of people appeal their property assessments and others simply never pay what’s billed.

In the end, how much state and local money districts and charters get is based mostly on enrollment.

And the district has lost so many students that the entire state allocation now goes to charters, Quinley said. The district relies solely on local funds and other sources.

Charters are worried, Thaman said, that as their enrollment continues to grow and KCPS enrollment dips, there won’t be enough money for charters to get their cut.

With new charters lined up to open and old ones prepared to expand in Kansas City in the fall, “That could happen as soon as a year’s time,” Quinley said.

“That’s a crisis for charters in Kansas City,” said Thaman. “This is an equity issue. All public school children should be funded equally.”


District officials disagree and believe that the wording in the proposed legislation, which Quinley said calls for “all local funds” to be divided equitably, could be construed to dip into district grants and other local sources intended specifically for district programs.

Missouri state Sen. Ed Emery, a Republican from Lamar, sponsored the legislation, which he expects will resolve the “funding inequity” problems this year. He said any resistance to the bill has come from groups that represent traditional public schools.