Charters profit school districts

In Oregon, some school districts are starting charter schools to meet special needs more efficiently. The Oregonian reports:

When Republican lawmakers tried to introduce charter schools to Oregon in the 1990s, they drew sharp resistance from public school leaders who saw charter schools as a drain on resources and competition for students. But as the movement has grown, some administrators have turned to charters to provide specialized programs. The prospect of up to $350,000 in federal charter planning and startup money for each school also helped.

Four charter schools that will open in Columbia County this fall illustrate the trend. Working with the Northwest Regional Education Service District, the Vernonia, Scappoose, Rainier and Clatskanie school districts decided to form two independent charters to attract home-schooled students and two small district-operated charter schools for students struggling in traditional high schools.

. . . Another public school consortium was responsible for the Center for Advanced Learning in east Multnomah County, which caters to students interested in engineering, health sciences or information technology careers. The school opened last year with the Reynolds, Gresham-Barlow, Centennial and Corbett school districts as owners-sponsors. Part of the districts’ motivation was to relieve crowding at high schools.

School districts profit when charters educate students, such as home-schoolers and prospective drop-outs, who’d otherwise not be eligible for public funding. The marginal cost of new students is lower than the cost of educating them.

About Joanne


  1. Cardinal Fang says:

    “The marginal cost of new students is lower than the cost of educating them.”

    Obviously this is not phrased correctly, since the marginal cost of the new student is the cost of educating him. I think what was meant was that the marginal cost of a new student is less than the amount that the state will pay to the school for that new student.

    But even phrased that way, it’s not true in the general case. It’s based on the theory that there’s always room for one more student, so that if one more student comes into a school district, no new teachers have to be hired, no new buildings have to be built, no new equipment has to be bought, so that one new student won’t cost much.

    To see what’s wrong with that idea, imagine the developer wanting to add 500 new houses to the town, and explaining how those 800 new students won’t cost the town anything to educate. “Hey, I’m bringing in new students for you, and the marginal cost of educating those kids will be hardly anything. You’ll be making money that you can use for the existing students!” I doubt if the school board would buy that.

    Or, suppose it is just one more student, but the one more student is a special ed kid. The $8000 the school district gets for that kid won’t come close to paying for his fulltime aide.

    No, no, that district-operated school for students who’d otherwise drop out won’t be making money for the school district. The charter school for homeschoolers will, though, but that’s because it doesn’t need to have a building or (very many) teachers. The school district pretends it’s educating the homeschoolers, but it’s actually just collecting the money and having the homeschooling parents file a few forms.

  2. Interesting article in our local paper this morning. As many of you know, here in Texas we have the so-called ‘Robin Hood’ law that forces wealthier school districts to send millions of their dollars to poorer districts in other parts of the state. Well and good, except that the drain is so lopsided that the ‘wealthier’ districts are letting teachers and staff go, shutting down programs like music, band, academic clubs, etc., in order to cut costs.

    Well, one of the ‘wealthier’ districts is Sweeny ISD. They had a good deal going for a while, where teachers about to retire would pay anywhere from $500-1500 for the privilege of working at the school for one day, and then be able to claim social security benefits. It was a terrific fund raiser for the school, and offset a lot of the loss from ‘Robin Hood’.

    That loop hole closes this year. So they had to come up with another money-maker. Now they’re encouraging students to transfer into SISD. They get something like $4500 per student, and they already have the facilities and the teachers in place (demographics is causing a dropoff in the numbers of students).

    Good moneymaker. We’ll see come fall how successful they are/will be.