Arizona's charter schools will have to work with about $50 less per student next school year.
And that's after an $85 per student cut this year, according to the Arizona Charter School Association.
Charter schools in Arizona operate independently of school districts, but receive public funding. So like other state-funded entities, they've had to tighten their belts as the state grapples with less money in the coffers.
The 2011-2012 budget headed to Gov. Jan Brewer cuts $183 million from public K-12 education - more than Brewer proposed in January, but less than the Senate planned just a few weeks ago.
The cut to charter schools is about $8 million. About 12 percent of Arizona's public school students - at least 120,000 children - attend charter schools that exist in all types of communities, including dozens in the East Valley.
State Democrats and Republicans continue to debate the effect of the budget: It appears balanced for the first time in five years, but education is being cut for the fourth year in a row.
The charter school association points out, however, that it could have been worse.
"Considering our state's current fiscal situation, cuts were inevitable," the association states on its website.
In fact, the Senate-approved budget would have trimmed about $125 per student.
"If these initial numbers stay as is, the advocacy efforts put forth by the association and by our members will have reduced the cuts by approximately 60 percent," the association wrote.
For those who run charter schools, it still means another round of trimming.
Sue Douglas, principal of Mesa Arts Academy near downtown Mesa, said much has already been done to operate the school on lean finances.
"We've frozen salaries. We've made the cuts. We've increased class size. Anything beyond what we have done is going to be very, very painful and it's going to have a negative impact on our program," Douglas said. "You've seen our results and statistics. We've significantly beaten the odds in growing student achievement."
While Arizona's charter schools receive state funding like public district schools, they cannot ask taxpayers for more money in the form of bonds and overrides.
"The message we're trying to get out is that district students have access to other pots of revenue that are prohibited to charter students. The problem there is when charter students are cut we don't have any supplemental budgets," said association president Eileen Sigmund. "Arizona - like the majority of the nation - is in a fiscal crisis so cuts to public students, including our public charter students, were anticipated. The average charter student is underfunded $1,500 than the average district student, and while the cut is difficult, the Legislature and governor recognized the inequities in K-12 funding."
District and charter schools argue over the amount of state funding the schools receive. In comparing the per-student funding formula from the state, charters do receive more. But districts receive funding in other areas that are not accessible to charters.
This debate led to a lawsuit filed in 2009 by the association stating the way Arizona funds charter schools is inequitable - and therefore unconstitutional because of the state's guarantee for equal education.