The major argument used by charter and voucher supporters is the reduced cost for education. But as I have noted so many times, behind the scenes, private interests are begging for equal compensation, negating any savings. But it gets worse, according to the study below, when it comes to the actual costs of these schools.
EdWeek: Educators and policymakers have for years debated the academic performance of charter schools, when compared against traditional public schools. Now a new report focuses on charters' financial performance—and concludes that many well-known charter school networks spend more money than comparable, regular public schools.
The report, released by the National Education Policy Center, examines charter schools' spending, as measured by their 990 filings through the Internal Revenue Service, and other state and local data. But the findings are being strongly disputed by one of the charter operators cited in the report, KIPP. The report concludes that the charter school networks studied in New York spend more per pupil—in some cases, a lot more—than nearby traditional public schools that serve similar populations and grade levels, regardless of the size of school. Achievement First schools, spent about $660 more, or 5 percent more, than the regular publics; Green Dot spent as much as $1,500 more, or 11 percent more; and Success Academies spent an additional $1,000, or 7.7 percent more. KIPP spending was significantly higher—33 percent, or $4,300 more per pupil, than comparable traditional public schools.The findings were similar in Texas, where by the authors' calculations, spending by a number of charter school networks, including KIPP, was significantly greater than traditional public schools in the same city, as determined by their IRS filings.
One of the takeaways from those cost comparisons, the authors argue, is that the costs of scaling up these charter schools can be high. Reproducing the models for relatively small populations may be feasible, if private or philanthropic donations help cover costs. But if the same services are to be provided for 10,000 to 50,000 students, "philanthropy may no longer be sufficient," they write. "These findings, coupled with evidence from other sources discussed earlier in this report, paint a compelling picture that 'no excuses' charter school models, including elements such as substantially increased time and small group tutoring, may come at a significant marginal cost.""Marginal cost" is in this case the cost associated with implementing the charters' various educational and operational strategies.
Baker, the report's primary author, says that districts, like charters, have major expenses for maintenance and construction of buildings, and the issue does not undermine the findings. He added that his research on KIPP's college program would not "substantively change" estimates of KIPP's spending in New York. "Indeed, the comparisons can never be perfectly apples to apples given differences in the governance and finance of these schools. But I believe we have gone to great lengths to provide the most reasonable possible comparisons, and we have documented the heck out of what's in and not in each comparison."