University of Arkansas report: Charter school funding inequity expands

1 May

Charter schools invoke passion on both sides of the argument as to whether they constitute good public policy. A good analysis of the issues can be found at Public Policy Forum Charter Schools: Issues and Outlooks presented by Judy Doesschate and William Lake http://www.rockinst.org/pdf/public_policy_forums/2007-03-28-public_policy_forum_charter_schools_issues_and_outlook_presented_by_judy_doesschate_and_william_lake.pdf Another good summary of the arguments for and against school choice can be found at Learning Matters analysis which came from the PBS program , News Hour. In DISCUSS: Is School Choice Good Or Bad For Public Education? several educators examine school choice issues. http://learningmatters.tv/blog/web-series/discuss-is-school-choice-good-or-bad-for-public-education/8575/

The National Education Policy Center examined one aspect of the charter school debate, the question of equitable funding between charters and public schools. The conclusion is the data does not support one conclusion. Here is the press release:

Contact: Bruce Baker, (732) 932-7496, x8232, bruce.baker@gse.rutgers.edu
William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/d8dlmeb
BOULDER, CO (May 3, 2012) — Do charter schools live up to their supporters’ claim that they deliver a better education for less money?
While previous research has focused on the first half of that claim – education quality — a new report published by the National Education Policy Center examines the second half – what charters spend.
Schools operated by major charter management organizations (CMOs) generally spend more than surrounding public schools, according to Spending by the Major Charter Management Organizations: Comparing Charter School & Local Public District Financial Resources in New York, Ohio and Texas.
The finding is significant, especially when programs such as the U.S. Department’s “Race to the Top” are directing more resources to charters deemed to be successful. The NEPC report presents new research on this question by Rutgers University Education Professor Bruce Baker, working with University of Colorado Boulder doctoral students Ken Libby and Kathryn Wiley. The research team examined spending in New York City, Ohio and Texas.
“Charter school finances are hard to measure,” says Baker. “Charters generally receive both public and private funds. Also, in-kind assistance and resources from districts and states to charters vary greatly. Yet we can see that the most successful charters, such as KIPP and the Achievement First schools, have substantially deeper pockets than nearby traditional schools.”
The report explains that most studies highlighting or documenting a successful charter school have sidestepped or downplayed cost implications while focusing on specific programs and strategies in those schools. The broad conclusion across these studies is that charter schools or traditional public schools can produce dramatic improvements to student outcomes in the short- and long-term by implementing “no excuses” strategies and perhaps wrap-around services. Most charter school studies conclude that these strategies either come with potentially negligible costs, or that higher costs, if any, are worthwhile since they yield a substantial return.
But according to Spending by the Major Charter Management Organizations, a “marginal expense” may be larger than it sounds. An additional $1,837 expense in Houston for a KIPP charter school, where the average middle school operating expenditure per pupil is $7,911, equals a 23 to 30 percent cost increase.
“A 30 percent increase in funding is a substantial increase by most people’s definition,” says Baker.
The study compares per-pupil spending of charter schools operated by CMOs to the spending in nearby district schools. The report’s authors examined three years of data, including information on school-level spending per pupil, school size, grade ranges and student populations served. For charter schools, the report’s authors drew spending data from government (and authorizer) reports as well as IRS non-profit financial filings (IRS 990s). Notably, the data from these two different sources matched only for New York City; the data reported for Texas and Ohio from the two sources varied considerably.
The study found many high-profile charter network schools to be outspending similar district schools in New York City and Texas. But it also found instances where charter network schools are spending less than similar district schools, particularly in Ohio. In Ohio, charters across the board spend less than district schools in the same city.
In contrast, KIPP, Achievement First and Uncommon Schools charter schools in New York City, spend substantially more ($2,000 to $4,300 per pupil) than similar district schools. Given that the average spending per pupil was around $12,000 to $14,000 citywide, a nearly $4,000 difference in spending amounts to an increase of some 30 percent.
Similarly, some charter chains in Texas, such as KIPP, spend substantially more per pupil than district schools in the same city and serving similar populations. In some Texas cities (and at the middle school level), these charters spend around 30 to 50 percent more based on state reported current expenditures. If the data from IRS filings are used, these charters are found to spend 50 to 100 percent more.
The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado Boulder produced Spending by the Major Charter Management Organizations: Comparing Charter School & Local Public District Financial Resources in New York, Ohio and Texas, with funding from the Albert Shanker Institute (http://www.shankerinstitute.org/) and from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (http://www.greatlakescenter.org).

A study by the University of Arkansas will continue the debate.

Blogger Alyssa Morones posted the Education Week article, Charter Schools Receive Inequitable Funding, Says Report:

When it comes to public school funding, charters are getting the short end of the stick, researchers from the University of Arkansas say in a new report. The truth behind the numbers, though, remains up for debate.
The report, Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands, examines funding inequities that exist for public charter students, according to Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. According to the report, traditional public schools receive an average of $3,059 per pupil more than traditional charter schools—a gap that’s larger in urban areas. This gap has increased by more than 54 percent between 2007 and 2011.
The inequity is caused mostly by differences in state-level funding, according to the report.
“The underlying causes of state funding and inequities are structural in nature,” said Jay May, a researcher at the University of Arkansas, in an interview with Education Week.
Dollars that flow outside of the funding formula or funds from city agencies that charters cannot access are two contributors to funding disparities.
“For me, this is a matter of equity,” said Larry Maloney, also a researcher. “Particularly when you look at the type of students in charters. They’re not the elite of our country. They are students with high need.”
While the disparities in funding reported by the study are the aggregate of a number of sources, the researchers call on states in particular to close these gaps. State practices that widen the funding gaps include denying charters some funding distributed to traditional public schools in the state funding formula, prohibitions on access to local funding, and reduced or no access to public facility funding.
The issue of charter funding and the disparities that exist may be even more complicated than the report makes out, though….
According to Miron, charter schools already have a cost advantage not captured and explained by the data present in the report….
In fact, in his previous studies, Miron found that charters actually have a cost advantage, because charters do not have to provide the same services or have the same expenditures as traditional public schools.Transportation costs, for example, are an area in which charters have a funding advantage. Districts are required to provide student transportation while charters are not.
Miron also iIsagreed with the report’s claim that charters do not receive more private and philanthropic funds than traditional public schools. In order to get a more accurate picture, he said, researchers must look at data beyond the federal data set, for which most charters reported zero dollars under private revenues.
Miron said that tax forms and school audits he examined in his own research revealed considerable money that comes into charters—money that the federal data did not reveal, in large part because the money was being received and spent by separate foundations or trusts established to serve a specific charter.
“The report is drawing a very big conclusion on very big and incomplete data,” he said. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/charterschoice/2014/05/charter_schools_receive_inequitable_funding_says_report.html

Center for Education Reform commented in Charter Funding: Inequity Expands:

Charter schools receive significantly less per-pupil funding than traditional public schools, according to an April 2014 study from the University of Arkansas. On average, charter schools receive 28.4 percent less for each student than their traditional counterparts, amounting to $3,814 less per year. Over time, the funding disparity between districts and charter schools has increased by 54 percent in eight years, as charter enrollment has continued to grow. Funding gaps vary from state to state, but researchers found that the gap is widest at the local level, where on average charter schools receive $1,780 per pupil from local sources, compared with $5,230 received by traditional schools. Moreover, there is overwhelming evidence that state funding inequities are structural in nature, and charter funding can’t possibly be resolved without starting over. These findings validate those from the 2014 Survey of America’s Charter Schools, which reported that charter schools receive on average 36 percent less revenue than their traditional school counterparts. http://www.edreform.com/2014/01/survey-of-americas-charter-schools/ The University of Arkansas study is current up to the 2010-11 school year, and researchers collected, reviewed and audited financial statements from 30 states plus the District of Columbia. – See more at: http://www.edreform.com/2014/04/charter-funding-inequity-expands/#sthash.SEYZUwnA.dpuf http://www.edreform.com/2014/04/charter-funding-inequity-expands/

Citation:

Research report: Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands
Download Full Report http://www.uaedreform.org/wp-content/uploads/charter-funding-inequity-expands.pdf

Report Appendices http://www.uaedreform.org/wp-content/uploads/charter-funding-inequity-expands-appendices.pdf

Conversion Charter Schools: Do They Impact Financial Analysis http://www.uaedreform.org/wp-content/uploads/charter-funding-conversion-charter-impact.pdf

Here is the press release from the National Association for Public Charter Schools:

New Report Finds Charter Schools Receive Significantly Lower Funding than Other Public Schools
Average per pupil funding gap reaches $3,509
4/30/2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the University of Arkansas released a report that shows public charter schools now receive $3,509 less per pupil than traditional public schools. Charter Funding: Inequity Expands reveals the disparity is greatest in major cities and that the funding gap has grown in recent years.
“This report is a stark reminder of the funding inequity that exists for public charter school students,” said Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “One in 20 children in America now attends a public charter school and there is no justifiable reason why their schools should receive fewer dollars than other public schools. What makes this particularly frustrating is that the disparity continues to grow, rising by nearly 55 percent over the past eight years. We must remind state and local leaders of the impact their policy decisions have on our students and work to ensure we are closing this funding gap.”
The report, based on data from Fiscal Year 2011, found state funding deficits ranged from $365 in New Mexico to as much as $12,736 in Washington, D.C. In urban areas the disparity was greatest – on average traditional public schools received $4,352 more per pupil than charter schools. The report also found that public charter schools received fewer private and philanthropic donations per pupil than traditional public schools.
Since 2010, all but one independent research study has found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching low income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools. Separate studies by the Center for Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood.
“Public charter schools have proven time and again that they are doing an effective job educating some of our most disadvantaged kids,” Rees continued. “But too often, potential school leaders are discouraged from opening a charter school due to limited resources. We should be doing everything we can to make sure more public charter schools are able to access the resources they need to offer high-quality education options.”
Click here to read Charter Funding: Inequity Expands and view state specific data.
About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.publiccharters.org.

This blog wholeheartedly supports charters, but more important, this blog supports school choice. One of the principles of this blog is that all children have a right to a good basic education. There are a variety of ways that each child will receive that good basic education and the choice should be left to the parents or guardians. The only caveat should be that if the education option is failing to educate that child, there should be other alternatives to choose from. Charters are governed by state law which authorizes them and sets the parameters for operation. One of the reasons many support charters is it is at least theoretically possible for failing schools to be closed. There are going to be good education options of all types and there will be failures of public school, private schools, and homeschools. Just as success is not attributed to all choices in a category, the fact that a public school or charter school is a failure does not mean that ALL public schools or ALL charter schools are failure. People, use a little discernment. Many are so caught up in their particular political agenda that they lose sight of the goal, which is that all children have a right to a good basic education.

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