A new report concludes that charter schools operated by major charter management organizations in three states often spend more to educate children than the surrounding public schools.
The study, published by the National Education Policy Center, compares per-pupil spending in charter schools run by major management organizations with local district schools in New York, Ohio, and Texas. It says that in some places charter spending by major charter management organizations, known as CMOs, is less per student than in traditional public schools, but in other places, it is significantly more.
For example, KIPP, Achievement First and Uncommon Schools in New York City, spend between $2,000 to $4,300 more per student than public schools. High-profile charter network schools outspend district schools in Texas, too — for example, KIPP spends around 30 to 50 percent more in some cities — but not in Ohio. The highly regarded KIPP charter network, the report says, is the one that spends more than neighboring traditional districts, though the amount varies by grade and place.
The conclusion contradicts, at least in some cases, one of the common assertions made by charter supporters: That they deliver a better education to the same profile of children for less money than traditional public schools.
The study, titled “Spending by the Major Charter Management Organizations,” by Bruce D. Baker of Rutgers University, and Ken Libby and Kathryn Wiley from the University of Colorado..
The researchers used government and authorizer reports of spending, and International Revenue Service data, but they note that they “remain unconvinced that we are accounting fully for all charter school expenditures.”
They also note data inconsistencies in Ohio and Texas and a lack of transparency among some charter management organizations, making it hard to reconcile charter schools’ independent financial documents with government data sources.
“Among our most important findings, however, is that data quality and financial reporting remain significant barriers to conducting accurate and precise comparative expenditure analyses across traditional public and charter school sites,” they wrote.
In some states, such analyses are not yet possible because of the lack of public data. “This matters, the report concludes, “if we’re to get a grasp on not only ‘what works,’ but the equally important question of how much it costs.”
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