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Public school districts could have to change back their latest charter schools

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Old Vail Middle School, on of the schools set for conversion. Old Vail Middle School, on of the schools set for conversion.
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Arizona's school districts that have started charter schools must change the most recent ones back, and go back to less funding.

The latest move by the state legislature highlights the gap in funding for public schools versus charter schools.

Vail School District switched three more of its schools to charters last summer.  But the legislature went back in time, set a deadline before those dates, and said the switch was too late and that those schools only get a year as charters, and with a limited additional funding.

Additional funding for a school is a benefit that districts receive when they create a charter school.  The ones in Vail get about eleven hundred dollars per student more than its standard district schools.  The Vail superintendent said that money supports programs that attract students and help them perform.  But he said that without the additional funding they can't support those programs. 

One state representative said that this latest move by the legislature should spark a discussion about the funding gap between charter school and public school districts.

"I think what we need to do, as opposed to being punitive toward these school districts that are just trying to help the kids, is have a broader conversation.  Sit there and say, 'what does the future of public education look like, what does that funding stream look like, and why is it that this kid goes to this school and gets x amount of dollars, but they go to this school and they get x minus something," said Rep. Ethan Orr, (R) Tucson.

"One of our charter schools is starting a Chinese immersion program and at the parent meeting, a parent said I'm so glad you're doing that here because otherwise I would have had to have gone to a charter school outside the district to get that special program.  Well those special programs cost money," said Vail School District superintendent Calvin Baker.

Vail has seven charter schools but its latest three will have to go back to regular schools in two years.  Tanque Verde will also have to change back one of its schools.

Copyright 2014 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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