How choice and charter tuitions are calculated
The average tuition rate for students attending charter schools is nearly twice what school districts pay to send children to schools outside their boundaries through school choice
This is because of the way the state calculates tuition and reimbursement rates for charter and choice.
School-choice funding is fairly straightforward. Barring special education needs, a sending district typically pays $5,000 per child to the student’s school-choice district. That amount is viewed as the minimum it costs to educate a child in the state.
With charter schools, the tuition rates become more complicated and they vary by town. Accounting for reimbursement from the state, the average tuition rate for a charter school student in Massachusetts was about $9,500 last year.
The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has an elaborate formula to figure out charter school tuition rates that takes into account how much money charter schools need to operate, the number of students admitted and how much the sending district typically spends per child. It’s this per-pupil expenditure that creates the variation in tuition rates for each school district. The more a municipality spends to educate children in-district, the higher its charter tuition assessment.
To ease the financial burden on sending districts, the state offers some reimbursement for charter school tuitions. A town gets back a percentage of the year-to-year tuition increase from the commonwealth that decreases over a six-year period. The first year, the town gets 100 percent of the year-to-year increase in charter school tuition back from the state. For each of the five years after that, a town gets a quarter of the tuition hike reimbursed.