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Budget gives charter schools more money

Rochester, N.Y. -- The state budget approved Monday night means more money for charter schools in Western New York. The state would increase funding the next three years, adding $550 to the base amount it gives charter schools for each student enrolled.

Currently, charter schools in Rochester get $12,090 per student. If the budget passes, that number would increase by $250 next year, $150 for the following year and another $150 in 2016-17. That would bring the total to $12,640, an increase charter schools have waited years for.

"That $12,090 per pupil has been frozen for four years," said Geoffrey Rosenburger, chairman of the Rochester Prepatory Charter School. "In essence, over a seven-year period, we will get about a 4 percent increase, total."

It's not a big increase, but Roseburger said it's better than the $500-per-student cut proposed in by the state last week.

"When they're going to cut off your leg and then they tell you you only have a broken ankle, I guess you're happy," he said.

Rochester Prep is a network of four charter schools, with plans to open a high school, two middle and two elementary schools in the city in August.

"We get no money for capital, so we have to go out for public schools and raise money from private donors just to put a roof over our kids' heads," Roseburger said.

Even though charter schools are public schools, Rosenburger said they get about one-third less than what district schools do.

"Of course we could always use more money," said Mary Worboys-Turner, board member for PUC Achieve Charter School. "There is always kinds of needs within any organization, be it from facilities or educations, and of course we could use more."

Set to open in the fall with a fifth-grade class of 150 students, the increase would mean a $37,500 increase in state funding next year.

"It helps to give more opportunity to be more creative, expand programs, improves educational teaching," Worboys-Turner said. "We're very pleased to have that money comes toward the charter schools."

Next school year, Rochester will have 13 charter schools with about 4,000 students enrolled. Most are from low-income families, looking for educational alternatives outside the city school district.

If the schools want to continue to expand and add grade levels, charter school board members said they'll need more money than the budget proposes.

 
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