Understanding Charter School Tuition Reimbursements
School districts pay tuition for resident pupils attending Commonwealth charter schools. There are two programs that directly offset this tuition, Chapter 46 aid and Facilities Aid.
Chapter 46 Aid
Chapter 46 reimbursement aid gets its name from the legislation that created it, Chapter 46 of the Acts of 1997. The Chapter 46 legislation authorizes several aid programs. While the most significant component is the aid for recent increases in charter school tuition, two minor components exist to help offset tuition for new public school pupils and sibling enrollment at tuition-capped districts.
Increased Tuition Aid
The increased tuition aid program is designed to generate the greatest amount of aid where there is a large increase in district tuition over the prior fiscal year. This occurs where there is a significant shift of enrollment into new or existing charter schools. The aid is a function of change in tuition, not specific pupil enrollment.
Table 1 presents the financial impact for a single, $100,000 increase in Commonwealth charter school tuition in FY17. The example assumes there is no tuition before or after FY17 in order to illustrate the mechanics of the program.
Table 1: Increased Tuition Aid for One Year, FY17
|Fiscal Year||Prior Year Tuition||Current Year Tuition||Change in Tuition
||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Year 4||Year 5||Year 6
|100 pct reimb||25 pct reimb||25 pct reimb||25 pct reimb||25 pct reimb||25 pct reimb|
|FY17||0 ||100,000 ||100,000 ||100,000 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||100,000 |
|FY18||100,000 ||0 ||(100,000)||0 ||25,000 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||25,000 |
|FY19||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||25,000 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||25,000 |
|FY20||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||25,000 ||0 ||0 ||25,000 |
|FY21||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||25,000 ||0 ||25,000 |
|FY22||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||25,000 ||25,000 |
|Total Aid Disbursed for FY17 change in tuition||225,000|
In the first year an increase in tuition occurs the sending district will receive 100 percent of the increased tuition as aid. Please see Table 2.
Over the next five fiscal years the sending district will receive another 125 percent of this initial aid increase. The additional 125 percent will be distributed equally over five fiscal years in 25 percent increments. At the end of the sixth year the sending district will have received 225 percent of the initial increase in aid, or 100 + 25 + 25 + 25 + 25 + 25 = 225.
Table 2: District Tuition and Aid over Ten Years
| ||Enrollment||Tuition Rate||Tuition
|100 percent||25 percent||25 percent||25 percent||25 percent||25 percent|
|Net Cost to District over Ten Years (Total Tuition $793,450 minus aid of $428,762)||$364,688|
The one to one matching function of the 100 percent tier of the formula has the beneficial effect of holding the district harmless from the immediate financial impact of expanding tuition at Commonwealth charter schools.
The cascading pockets of 25 percent reimbursement provide a financial cushion for districts during the transition. When charter tuition costs stabilize, aid diminishes, shifting the financial responsibility back to the sending district.
While it is true that new enrollment is a trigger in generating aid, it is increases in tuition that drive the formula.
For example, when a 300 seat school replaces their graduating class of 75 pupils with a new class of 75 new pupils, this process, by itself, generates no increased tuition, and thus no aid. However, if this same school expands to 375 seats, the additional enrollment will fuel an increase in tuition and trigger aid.
Private, Home-School, and Sibling Pupil Aid
Pupils transferring in from private or home-schooled settings represent a new cost to districts. When these pupils enter traditional public schools, state aid for them will lag one school year. If they enroll at a Commonwealth charter school, the private and home-school component of Chapter 46 aid covers their first year of tuition, neutralizing the financial impact they normally present to their districts. In their second year, the state aid will cover them and financial responsibility shifts back to the district.
If the enrollment of a sibling at a Commonwealth charter school is the sole cause of a sending district's tuition cost to exceed their Net School Spending cap, the sibling's tuition will be paid from Chapter 46 aid.
Charter schools are not eligible for state financing for school construction. Facilities aid offsets the entire cost of facilities tuition, simulating the direct aid districts receive from the state's School Building Authority for capital projects.
Unlike Chapter 46, facilities aid is not formula based. The aid is a one to one reimbursement of the districts' per pupil facilities tuition.
Funding & Priority
Funding for charter tuition aid is provided on Line 7061-9010 of the state budget.
FY2018 State Budget:
7061-9010.. For fiscal year 2018 reimbursements to certain cities, towns and regional school districts of charter school tuition and the per-pupil capital needs component included in the charter school tuition amount for commonwealth charter schools, as calculated under subsections (ff) and (gg) of section 89 of chapter 71 of the General Laws; provided, that notwithstanding said subsection (ff) of said section 89 of said chapter 71, or any other general or special law to the contrary, the per-pupil capital needs component of the commonwealth charter school tuition rate for fiscal year 2018 shall be $893; and provided further, that if the amount appropriated is insufficient to fully fund all reimbursements required by said section 89 of said chapter 71, the department shall fund the reimbursements in accordance with the following priorities: (i) the per-pupil capital needs component; (ii) the 100 per cent increase reimbursement; and (iii) the 25 per cent increase reimbursements, by year, from most recent to oldest ..................................... $80,500,000.
While the budget language clearly identifies the priority of facilities aid funding over increased tuition aid, it does not identify the priority of funding for private, home school, and sibling pupils.
Increased tuition aid supplements a districts Chapter 70 aid, while facilities and private, home school, and sibling pupil tuition costs exist outside of the Chapter 70 state aid program. Subsequently, the Department's priority order of funding is facilities aid first, private, home school, and sibling pupils second, and increased tuition aid last.
Increased Tuition Aid
While initially defined within Chapter 46 of the Acts of 1997, the aid program was revised in 2010's An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap.
M.G.L. c.71 § 89 (gg) Any district whose total charter school tuition amount is greater than its total charter school tuition amount for the previous year shall be reimbursed by the commonwealth in accordance with this paragraph and subject to appropriation; provided, however, that no funds for said reimbursements shall be deducted from funds distributed pursuant to chapter 70. The reimbursement amount shall be equal to 100 per cent of the increase in the year in which the increase occurs and 25 per cent in the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth years following.
Private, Home School, and Sibling Pupil Aid
M.G.L. c.71 § 89 (c) If a charter school student previously attended a private or parochial school or was home schooled, the commonwealth shall assume the first year cost for that student and shall not reduce the sending district's chapter 70 aid for that student's tuition in that fiscal year.
M.G.L. c.71 § 89 (i)(2) In any fiscal year, no public school district's total charter school tuition payment to commonwealth charter schools shall exceed 9 per cent of the district's net school spending; provided, however, that a public school district's total charter tuition payment to commonwealth charter schools shall not exceed 18 per cent of the district's net school spending if the school district qualifies under paragraph (3). The commonwealth shall incur charter school tuition payments for siblings attending commonwealth charter schools to the extent that their attendance would otherwise cause the school district's charter school tuition payments to exceed 9 per cent of the school district's net school spending or 18 per cent for those districts that qualify under said paragraph (3).
M.G.L. c.71 § 89 (ff) The [Department of Elementary and Secondary Education] shall, subject to appropriation, provide funding to charter schools for a portion of the per pupil capital needs component included in the charter tuition amount and shall reimburse the sending school districts for said costs. In fiscal year 2011 and thereafter, such funding shall not be less than the per pupil amount provided in fiscal year 2010.
Questions may be directed to Hadley Cabral in the Office of District and School Finance at (781) 338-6586 or . firstname.lastname@example.org