Although the per-pupil funding gap was finally closed last year, charter schools continue to be at a significant disadvantage when it comes to funding. Charters receive less federal funding and are unlike traditional school districts, they’re forced to pay for their facilities and technology upgrades out of their general fund.
Despite this, charter schools continue to do more with less. Stanford University recently released a research study that shows charter school students in Michigan gain an additional month or more of learning every year in reading and math. And it’s been well-documented that charter schools are the most cost-effective of all public schools.
And the “doing more with less” concept doesn’t just stop with academic results. Charter schools are also offering more outside the classroom to provide the care and resources that students need to succeed.
Case in point: Advanced Technology Academy, a charter school in Dearborn. The school serves a population of students that are highly at risk and economically disadvantaged. The school’s administration realizes that it’s not enough to just provide a quality education in a safe environment. They feel the students and families require more. So ATA provides a host of additional services that include:
Those services don’t come free, so ATA has had to work hard to garner community support and donations, look for grants when they’re available and figure out ways to stretch every dollar in the school’s budget. What’s impressive is that they’ve recognized that these services need to be a priority.
ATA has always been a leader when it comes to community partnerships. The school, which is located right next to the Ford Dearborn Assembly Plant, was established through a partnership with the Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies, a program based upon project-based learning modules.
As the school describes it, “Ford PAS provides students with high quality interdisciplinary learning experiences that challenge them academically and develop their problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication skills. By building strong local partnerships with business and higher education, Ford PAS encourages and prepares students for success in college and professional careers in fields such as business, engineering, health care and technology.”
It's those partnerships – with companies like Ford and nonprofits like Gleaners – that in large part have allowed ATA to do more with less. All to benefit its students.