It's been widely reported that the federal stimulus money for education, including Race to the Top, will go to states favorable to charter school policies. States without a cap on the number of charter schools that can operate and states considered "charter friendly" will benefit from federal stimulus money. Most would think that the federal stimulus money would be shared equitably with charter schools already operating in the state. In Colorado, that's a wrong assumption.
Last spring Gov. Ritter had the opportunity to use the federal stimulus money that came through his office, ARRA or American Recovery and Restoration Act, to backfill the millions cut from charter school capital construction by the General Assembly. Gov. Ritter, never a strong supporter of charter schools, chose not to do that. Having the funds would have allowed the state to apply for federal matching funds for charter school capital construction.
Now the state will be applying for the federal Race to the Top funds. There are no requirements in grant competition guidelines for states to share stimulus money with charter schools. In Colorado, that means most charter schools won't see any of the money they helped bring to the state.
In early December, 14 charter schools in a metro Denver school district that wouldn't disclose how stimulus money had been used, joined together to ask the district's Superintendent to provide detailed information. Charter school leaders knew ARRA money had been used to provide instructional coaches for each of the neighborhood public schools, but when the charter school liaison for the district was asked if charter schools would get either an instructional coach or in some way benefit from the ARRA funds, there was no response. Eventually the district Superintendent responded to a letter by stating the charter schools were not eligible for the stimulus money and the district had no responsibility to consult with or provide an equitable share of the funds to charter schools. While true, the charter schools primarily wanted transparency on how the federal stimulus funds were spent.
Nothing in Race to the Top requires states to ensure stimulus money is shared with charter schools. Even states, like Colorado, with a robust charter school environment and charter schools that generally tend to outperform neighborhood public schools on academic measures, can completely ignore the inclusion of public charter schools in how the funds are appropriated.
Some Colorado school districts have either given a lump sum amount to the charter schools they have authorized or a per student amount. Without any federal or state requirement, these districts have decided all the public schools in the district should share equally.
Update: Colorado Independent article interviewing Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien