The school district got some bad financial news earlier this month.
As noted in today's article, Wake and other school districts that are home to charter schools are now figuring how much more money they owe to comply with a state court ruling. At issue is how it seems Wake and other districts undercounted the amount of money it needed to turn over to charter schools.
With 13 charter schools and more than 5,000 charter students this year, the price tag could be big in Wake, especially if charters ask for the money retroactively. Wake is still calculating the amount it owes.
Five charter schools had sued the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system alleging that the district was shorting them of money. Both a Superior Court judge and the N.C. Court of Appeals sided with the charter schools.
The final nail was hammered this month when the state Supreme Court refused to hear Charlotte's appeal.
School districts act as the passthrough for local money to charter schools. But Charlotte didn't count certain pots of money for determining the average per pupil amount to forward to charters.
For instance, Charlotte didn't factor into the formula the money taken from the fund balance to balance the budget.
Here's an example of how it could play out in Wake.
Wake based its per-pupil amount for charter schools on the county appropriation. But it excluded other amounts in the local current expense fund.
For instance, in the last fiscal year Wake used the $310.5 million county appropriation figure to determine a per-pupil amount of $2,178.
Wake probably should have used the local current expense fund amount of $343.2 million.
We're probably talking about around $1 million a year more owed to Wake charter schools. Richard Vinroot, the former Charlotte mayor who represented the charter schools in the lawsuit, said any charter school can ask for three years worth of money so Wake's debt could go higher.
While school officials are complaining about the court ruling, school board member Ron Margiotta takes a different view. Margiotta, who backs lifting the state charter cap, said the charter schools are helping Wake save on capital costs.
"If they haven’t been getting the money they deserve, they should get it," Margiotta said.
But Margiotta said he'd like to forward any retroactive payments over time instead of in one lump sum.