Much has been made about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) giving money to public education. But charter school leaders shouldn't be holding their breath, waiting for these funds!
Eleven billion dollars is in the ARRA for both the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years. This money is allocated for "public schools" and of course, charter schools are public schools. But they're also subject to state level policy makers who will make certain conditions for using these stimulus dollars. Further, federal wage rules will apply, which will increase the cost of construction. In other words, this money will be more for construction companies than for K-12 public education.
The Title I (high poverty) and IDEA (special education) money Colorado received last week will all go to districts with qualifying plans. In other words, the federal restrictions for not supplanting, etc. Districts should use the money for new activities designed to increase academic achievement. The problem is, no one knows if the funding will be eliminated in 2011 and so any new activities will likely end as quickly as they were created. The money will be accounted for separately and reported on separately (this is equivalent to "more work").
That leaves the pool of money each state can access from the ARRA. In Colorado, that leaves charter schools competing for a limited pool of resources against large, urban school districts. The money is slated to be used to replace funds that had previously been cut. A reasonable person could believe that would mean the Charter School Capital Construction money cut this year would be replaced. But don't hold your breath waiting!
Governor Ritter has control over how these funds will be used. That's why a theme during last week's charter school rally at the Capitol was about charter school students being equal to their noncharter public school peers. Further, the League of Charter Schools has been encouraging charter school families to contact the Governor's office and ask for a portion of the state's stimulus money to be used for charter schools.
There will be numerous meetings before anything is finally determined on how federal stimulus money will be used in Colorado. In the meantime, charter school leaders should create budgets without Charter School Capital Construction funds included.