Charter School Reimbursement

  • Description
  • Funding History
  • Proposals

When students and their families choose to enroll in a charter school, state law requires that the public school district in which they reside pay the student’s tuition costs. The Charter School Reimbursement program is designed to ease the transition challenges that come when a district has an increase in charter tuition payments (usually coming from an increase in the number of students leaving for charter schools).

Tuition for charter schools is roughly based on the average per-student funding of the school district where students live and would have otherwise attended. This includes the minimum spending required under the state’s school funding formula (Chapter 70) as well as any additional funding the cities or towns choose to allocate to their district. For additional detail see MassBudget’s Charter School Funding, Explained.

Massachusetts has two reimbursement programs associated with charter schools that assist public districts and charter schools in their operations, Tuition Reimbursement Aid (Chapter 46) and Facilities Aid.

Through Tuition Reimbursement Aid, the state helps districts offset the loss of tuition when more students depart for charter schools. This aid provides reimbursements set to a percentage of the new amount of money districts send to charter schools. The reimbursement rate is 100 percent of tuition in the first year and 25 percent each of the next five years. This approach began to be phased in during FY 2011, and for the first several years, was close to fully funded. However, the state has provided less than two-thirds of the reimbursements outlined in the reimbursement formula between FY 2015 and FY 2017. Fully funding reimbursements would direct roughly $54 million in additional aid to sending districts in FY 2017.

Charter schools are not eligible for funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the main source of funding for school facilities across the Commonwealth. Through Facilities Aid, the state provides charter schools with a source of funding to make up for a lack of access to other capital funds. Facilities Aid is appropriated by the Legislature and is allocated to charter schools at a set rate, which has been $893 per-student since FY 2009.

Updated November 2016

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