Competing for students

Colorado schools are being forced to compete with charters for students, the Denver Post reports.

Lobbing incentives and recruiting aggressively, charter schools have lured thousands of students from traditional metro-area schools, sapping tax dollars from district budgets and forcing some principals and board members to consider something new:
How to compete for students.

Charter enrollment has tripled in three years in Denver.

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Comments

  1. Richard Nieporent says:

    Lobbing incentives and recruiting aggressively, charter schools have lured thousands of students from traditional metro-area schools,sapping tax dollars from district budgets

    It is disheartening how the propaganda from the anti-choice crowd has permeated the media (or more likely it has been promulgated by the media because it conforms to their own beliefs). Tax dollars are not being taken from district budgets when students leave the public schools for charter schools. The school budget is based on the number of pupils in the school system. The money is only needed if there are students to be educated. If there are less students then there is supposed to be less money. As long as the average amount of money per child does not changed, then they are not losing funding. In fact, when it comes to a voucher program, they actually gain money because the amount per student for the voucher is less than the amount spent for the student in a public school. Thus, if the average amount spent is $10K for a public school student and the amount for the voucher is $5K, then unless taxes are reduced, the district actually gains $5K for each student lost!

  2. Ross the Heartless Conservative says:

    Richard,
    I agree in principle with what you have written but I have few small quibbles.

    In most states the savings you mention would be savings by the funding authority, not the school.

    Is the amount of funding received by the school totally based on the number of students enrolled? If there is a baseline budget amount as well then the average dollars per student would increase.

  3. Richard Nieporent says:

    In most states the savings you mention would be savings by the funding authority, not the school.

    In my state (Maryland), the schools are funded by the counties. The school system requests a budget and the county will agree to it or cut it depending on circumstances. The school system has to justify their need for funds. Since I live in a county with a growing school population, the school will request additional funds to pay for the additional students. Of course there are myriad of costs associated with the increased student population besides additional teachers. It would be harder to justify more funding if the student population were decreasing. However, I am sure they would be able to find some pet program to request spending the additional funds on.

    Is the amount of funding received by the school totally based on the number of students enrolled? If there is a baseline budget amount as well then the average dollars per student would increase.

    I don’t claim to be an expert on school budgets. I am sure there is not a dollar for dollar savings with respect to vouchers. However, it would be hard to believe that the money not spent just disappears into a black hole. It either ends up as increased funding in some bureaucrat’s budget or it is given back to the taxpayer. Well I guess the later is the least likely scenario.

  4. Most states seem to have gravitated toward a mix of local, property-based taxes along with state-level, per-student funding.

    A recent example on this blog was the Dayton school district.

    I don’t remember the exact numbers but the local tax revenue came to something around $100 million and is not a function of enrollment. So, if every student marched off to charter schools then theoretically the Dayton school district would still have that local revenue to fund doing nothing.

    We’re seeing some pretty aggressive if amaturish wooing of parents here in the Detroit area. Some of the suburban school districts are actively going after students as their base enrollment has fallen off.

    It’s kind of fascinating to watch a free market unfold despite the best efforts of so many and the reluctance of some of the newly-minted competitors.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    I guess pretending to be baffled about why parents would take their kids out of public schools, or to another school, doesn’t work any longer.
    It would be nice if we knew how much of this competition was based on who does the core subjects best.

  6. Time for another “real world” math problem.

    Draw a graph of school budget cost versus school enrollment. State all of your assumptions, such as maximum number of students per class, student-teacher ratio, average teacher cost, building costs, and operating costs. The actual values are not as important as the shape of the graph. Once done, answer the following questions.

    1. Is the graph continuous?
    2. Is it linear or non linear?
    3. How does the incremental per-student cost differ from the overall per-student cost?
    4. Does this differential vary at different points of the graph?

    Our schools and school committee complain that they don’t want to pay for students to go to charter schools because the town’s cost is based on the overall per-student cost rather than the incremental per-student cost, which they put at about 50 percent of the overall per-student cost. (They also don’t want the kids to go to charter schools because our schools are “high performing” according to the state’s trivial standards.)

    5. Why is this per-student cost argument not correct?
    6. Does the 50 percent ratio seem correct? (Actually, one might think that the incremental cost of teaching one more child is next to zero.) Where do you think this 50 percent ratio came from?
    7. About 25 percent of the kids in our town go to private or independent schools because of the admitted problem of an “academic ceiling”. What percentage of the school budget is saved by the town? Be careful about how you take your percentages. For a school district with 600 students how do you think these savings compare with the costs of the 6 students we have going to charter schools?
    8. Our school committee talks about “tuitioning-in” students (at full per-student price) from other districts because of our extra help for lower-level IEP students. (Our IEP student population is about 22 percent.) How is this different than what charter schools do?
    9. As a parent, how would you feel when the schools admit to an “academic ceiling” problem in a full-inclusion environment, but want to tuition-in more IEP students from other districts? On top of that, they don’t want your child to go anywhere else (unless you pay for it).

  7. From the article:

    During the interview process to get in, I kept thinking, ‘My God, they want my kid here,”‘ she said. “They took time in the summer to conduct testing sessions to gauge academically and socially where he is. They took a good look at him.”

    Maybe we should remember this parent’s positive view of testing the next time we debate! 🙂

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