Recession attack on charter schools

School officials are using the recession to fight charter school growth, writes Checker Finn on Flypaper. They argue there’s not enough money for new schools.

But of course it’s completely cockeyed. If every public-school pupil in America attended a charter school, the total taxpayer cost would be 20-30% LESS than it is today. That’s because charters are underfunded (compared with district schools) and thus represent an extraordinary bargain — even if their overall academic performance isn’t much different from that of district schools.

Our new president and his designated Education secretary are pro-charter so I expect charter schools to continue to grow, especially those using models proven effective with low-income students.

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Comments

  1. You know, you’d think those dopes over at Fordham would be beating the drums about the fact that charters inevitably operate at a significant budget disadvantage to district schools.

    They ought to be hollering that fact from the rooftops.

    But no, they complain about the difference which means politicians see charter advocates as just another money-grabbing constituency of which they have plenty.

    Rather, what they ought to be doing is pointing out at every opportunity that in an economic downturn, when everyone has to tighten their belts, charters operate that way as a matter of course.

  2. Obama will, of course, wage war against charter schools, but that will pale in comparison to what he has in store for home-schoolers.

  3. What I want ot know is, if reducing the regulations that charter schools have to comply with in order to make them sustainable, then why can’t the regular schools operate under the reduced regulations? What’s sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander.

    Some estimates put reporting costs at 15% of a district’s budget. That’s the cost of gathering and transmitting the data to the state and feds. And very little of the reporting is of any use to the district.

    The cost to the district of charter schools is not debated much, but in a district near here, the cost of a proposed charter school translates into a 5% property tax hike for residents. That’s not the regular budget increase; the budget to budget increase is 12.5%, which means programs are going to be cut again.

    And the galling fact is that this particular charter is being proposed not because the regular district is bad (it was ranked as the #1 public school district in the nation based on a ranking that counted graduates going to Ivy League schools as a percentage of total school population), but because the district, which already includes a specialized high school in addition to the regular high school, doesn’t emphasize classes in the environment and sustainability enough!

  4. Rex, charters exist to offer choices. It doesn’t matter if a district has terrible schools or great ones. We live in the top elementary district in the state-but have decided to send our son to a charter school. He is having a much richer educational experience.

  5. Andy Freeman says:

    > What I want ot know is, if reducing the regulations that charter schools have to comply with in order to make them sustainable, then why can’t the regular schools operate under the reduced regulations?

    Reducing the regs is not just to make them sustainable, it’s more to make them successful.

    Public school advocates defend and promote the regs so it’s silly to talk about reducing them for public schools. (They want to impose them on charter schools as well.)

  6. Andy,

    That’s not “public school advocates” who want to impose the regs on charter schools; it’s the teachers’ unions. The Superintendent I know is a strong advocate of public education, and one thing I know for sure is that the Supe would LOVE to get rid of all the red tape imposed by the state and the feds.

  7. Lynn,

    Why should MY taxes support YOUR school choice? In the district I was talking about, there is already complete school choice at the elementary and middle school levels; there is some choice at the high school level, but the special high school has a waiting list, and new entrants are supposed to be selected by lottery.

    The district is considered a relatively high wealth district based solely on the (average) taxable incomes of the people in the district, even though there is little taxable industry within the district. So state aid accounts for approximately 26% of the district budget, with the remainder coming from property taxes. About half the people in the district already pay more in property taxes than they do in income taxes.

  8. the powerful piece about charters, Rex, is that if they are not needed, then they will close since parents won’t choose it. Having admission by lottery reads between the lines as there are more people interested in the special school than can be accommodated currently.

  9. Rex,
    You are not paying taxes for my school choice. The district that I am in sounds similar to yours. We are also a very high wealth district with little taxable industry. However we are in a K-8 district. There is no choice in the district—you go to your neighboorhood school–. All the schools have the exact same curriculum. All the schools (including the charter) are ranked in the top 50 in the state.

    The schools are funded by property taxes and school bonds. Our Charter was not approved by the school board–Instead it was charted by the County Office of Education. The district does not give us any of the bond money—it adds up to about 1,800/student/year—. They get to keep this money that would have gone to educating my child. So really the tax payers are saving money with my choice.

  10. Andy Freeman says:

    > That’s not “public school advocates” who want to impose the regs on charter schools; it’s the teachers’ unions. The Superintendent I know is a strong advocate of public education

    There is, of course, a difference between “public schools” and “public education”.

  11. Andy Freeman says:

    > The district is considered a relatively high wealth district based solely on the (average) taxable incomes of the people in the district, even though there is little taxable industry within the district.

    Wealth comes in many forms – it isn’t solely, or even largely, determined by industry.

    The residents of that district have significant money – why shouldn’t they pay for education? Why do think that education should be paid for by a biz’ customers, folks who may, or may not, have significant money?

  12. Andy Freeman says:

    > Why should MY taxes support YOUR school choice?

    Are you planning to extend that courtesy to others?

    > In the district I was talking about, there is already complete school choice at the elementary and middle school levels

    Clearly not.

    No – you don’t get to determine whether other people should be happy with the choices that you’re willing to let them have.

  13. Lynn,

    Bond money isn’t used for curriculum purposes; it can only be legally used for capital improvements and repairs. (I don’t know if technology improvements such as classroom computers count as capital improvements under the laws regulating bond money.)