Funding for Chicago’s public charter schools has improved significantly in recent years, with the minimum local per pupil contribution rising from 75% of the local per pupil rate to 97%. Nonetheless, a major inequity persists, with charter schools required to divert millions of dollars from their operating budgets to cover facilities costs that CPS schools receive for free.
Illinois law requires public charter schools to be funded at 97% to 103% of what local districts contribute in per-pupil funding to the education of district students. This current funding level reflects a 2017 reform that raised the minimum local contribution to charter schools from 75% of the local district’s per pupil to 97% of the local district’s per-pupil.
Chicago’s public charter schools do NOT take money from local district schools. CPS is required to contribute roughly the same amount of funding per charter school pupil as per district school pupil — in other words, public education funding simply follows the student.
Although reforms to Illinois charter school funding law in 2017 moved charter schools closer to fairness, another inequity persists: Chicago’s public charter schools must divert operating budget funding toward facilities and rental costs, whereas CPS schools do not. This translates into a massive funding loss for charter schools, with Chicago’s largest charter network spending more than $259 per pupil – or $3 million total – on facilities-related expenses.
Because Chicago charter schools, unlike CPS schools, must cover facilities costs with their operating budgets, most are unable to invest in facilities on par with local district schools. Chicago’s largest charter school network, for instance, has just two playing fields for its hundreds of athletic programs — and just one full-size library for its 12,000 students.