Charters get $4,000 less per student

Charter schools received one third less per-pupil funding — about $4,000 less per student — than district-run schools in Denver, Milwaukee, Newark, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles in 2007 to 2011, according to a University of Arkansas study commissioned by the pro-charter Walton Family Foundation. “In the large, urban school districts evaluated, traditional public schools receive substantially more local, state and federal funds than public charter schools,” said lead researcher Larry Maloney.

As of 2011, the charter funding gap ranged from $2,684 in Denver to nearly $13,000 in Washington D.C.

Denver—$11,139; $2,684 less than regular public schools
Los Angeles—$8,780; $4,666 less than regular public schools
Milwaukee—$10,298; $4,720 less than regular public schools
Newark—$15,973; $10,214 less than regular public schools
District of Columbia—$16,361; $12,784 less than regular public schools

The research will appear in the September issue of The Journal of School Choice.

A 2010 Ball State study of charter school funding in 24 states and the District of Columbia found that charter school students received 19.2 percent (or $2,247) less per-pupil funding than students in regular public schools.

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  1. Could someone point me to the page in the link where the researchers accounted for the difference in special education population between the charters and the public schools? Thx.

  2. Mark Roulo says:

    With public education spending, it is always tricky to figure out the correct numbers.


    As an example, the claim above is that Los Angeles charters spend $8,780 per pupil per year, which is $4,666 less than the typical LA public school. Which would put the typical LA public school budget at $13,446 per year. But … California only budgets $11,412 per pupil. Does LA get, on average, $2K *more* per pupil than the state average? I doubt it.


    Then we have the fact that the dollars/student don’t all make it to the local schools. A random web-site about my local school district, for example, claims that median spending per student for California is $8,818 (this matches lots of other things I have read … in fact it seems high). This, I think, is the money that they see. Note that this is very similar to the LA charter school spending.


    Without a lot of details it is impossible to know what the numbers actually mean 🙁


    Lgm, the researchers probably didn’t account for this, but I don’t know where in the budget it normally gets accounted for. We have $11,412 – $8,818 (or about $1,500) per student that goes missing between what the state spends and what the schools receive. Maybe some of this goes to SPED?


    • The study compared all public funding — local, state and federal.

      • Mark Roulo says:

        My link to the site includes federal funding and still only gets to $11.4K per student for California as a whole. Do you think that LA averages $2K more per student than California as a whole?

  3. I don’t know if I’ve ever commented on a political ramification of the funding disparity but it occurs to me that disparity, part of the deal which allowed charters to come into existence and meant to cripple charters, will end up biting the public education lobby on the butt.

    If charters are cheaper to run then district schools, and this study along with the political deal that limits charter funding proves that’s true, as states cast about for ways to bring their fiscal houses into order one of the ways to do so will be to cut back on state funding for education. After all, there’s solid evidence that districts are poor money managers in the fact that charters get by on less.

    Naturally the public education lobby will go back to their traditional ploy of claiming to give a damn about the kids but with charters as a demonstration proof that district schools don’t have sole claim to the title “public education”, and the superiority of charters implicit in their choice by parents, I don’t think the approach will have the traditional, and hoped for, effect of stampeding the public.

    • Mike in Texas says:

      Another “Study” from the usual gang of “researchers” and the Wal-Mart Chair at the University of Arkansas. Let’s see, the college dept. they fund did a study on the movement they fund and claimed a huge result.

      Also, they claim it is “peer reviewed” but nowhere do they mention who peer reviewed it.

      • So, one content-free insult – you could just as well have called the authors poopie-heads – and patently false and uninteresting claim. The study’s going to be published in the Journal of School Choice so the review was done by their peer review committee. You’d have known that if you’d scanned the press release.

        The underlying point, that school districts are inherently poor managers of the public’s money compared to charters, is one that should certainly be more widely known and appreciated. And it will be.

        • Mike in Texas says:

          “The Journal of School Choice”? That’s freakin’ hilarious!! Thanks for the laugh this morning!

          • In other words, no response.

            You wanted peer review and you got it. My condolences if peer review doesn’t exactly turn out to have quite the stamp of authority you were hoping but then I’ve already made that point, not that you care. All you’re interested in is stopping the discussion and pushing the clock back to a time when there were no alternatives to the district system.

            That time is passed boyyo.

  4. Stacy in NJ says:

    The funding in NJ is complicated. Prior to Christy, charters received 2/3 the funding as district schools. The remaining 1/3 was returned to their district for “administrative” or facility costs. But, many charters are located in Abbott districts. Abbott districts receive funding from the state over and above local taxes. Typically they receive 22% over the state per pupil spending average (between $20,000-$17,000 per pupil). Charters were exempted from these extra funds, so charters in Abbott districts are significantly underfunded compared to their local district schools.

    Christy changed the formula so that charters are supposed to receive 90% of the district funds, but districts are still using “facility” fees to ripe them off.

  5. There is a significant funding benefit to identifyinging public-school kids as spec ed, which does not exist in charters or private schools. I don’t think that fact should be overlooked. I’ve always figured that a significant percentage of kids with a “learning disability” were simply not properly taught math or reading and that a significant percentage of ADD/ADHD kids simply are poorly handled by schools. Changing instructional practices like group work, discovery learning etc. could “fix” the problem for many. Also, I know that when the SAT removed the “special testing conditions” flag from test results that some parents immediately pursued spec ed diagnoses for their kids (a number using private testing facilities) – to get extra time or other perceived advantages. I’m sure it varies by community, but some places have made pursuit of any perceived advantage a high art.

  6. Here in NY, for 2010-2011, the data for the entire state is that the gen ed per pupil average is $10963, and the sped per pupil average is $29741. Alternative in my district runs close to sped on a per pupil basis, but has less total students. If the authors of the report didn’t adjust the per pupil for the sped costs, the conclusions mean little.

  7. Mike in Texas says:

    The idea of a Journal of School Choice, publishing an article on how great school choice is, is absolutely ridiculous. It would be like banks creating a journal called The Journal of Foreclosures, and publishing articles about how great foreclosures are.

    Let me know when it gets published in a real journal.

    BTW, I asked you to email me and you have failed to do so. Ducking again are we?

    • Moving the goal posts, hey Mike?

      I guess that’s all you’re left with but that trick won’t have much impact on politicians casting about for funds. If charter schools can do the same job as district schools, and for less money, then the fate of the district is sealed.

      And no, you didn’t ask me to e-mail you. You kept asking me what dates I’d be willing to go to Texas to take over a class for a week and I responded with “any time”. So the ball remains in your court with regards to your phony offer.

      You are, however, accurately playing the role of Randi Weingarten to my John Stossel and for the same reason – in both cases you bluff has been called.

      • Mike in Texas says:
        • Look Randi Weingarten from Texas, the ball’s in your court. Get back to me when you’ve made the arrangements.

          By the way Mike, what do you think is liable to occur once politicians come to the realization that the district’s not the only way to do public education and that *all* the alternatives are both cheaper and better?

          Why don’t you chew on that one a while and see what you can come up with.

          • Mike in Texas says:

            Allen, if you would email me I will gladly make the arrangements.

            Dodged the question of your lying again I see.

          • Roger Sweeny says:


            He’s offered you a time. Email him and either accept it or make a counter-offer.

          • No, you wouldn’t be “glad to make the arrangements” and we, and anyone who’s followed this dreary exchange, knows it. You just have no other response to make now that your bluff has been called other then to back down which you won’t do and which you’ve convinced yourself you needn’t if you continue to claim I have to provide convenient, to me, dates.

            By the way, you’ll be distressed to learn that that time, when politicians realize that there are economical and politically viable alternatives to the district system, may be closer then even I could have hoped.

            Read it an weep –

          • Roger, I already did make an offer and on this forum.

            I’ve responded a couple of times that all Mike has to do is name the date, and provide some means of verifying the offer’s legitimate, and I’m there.

            Come on Roger, we all know Mike’s offer is bogus and is merely meant to shut me up.

            What half-way reasonable principal of a school would allow a stranger to teach a class for a week for no better reason then satisfy the childish challenge of one of their staff? If Randi Weingarten backed down when John Stossel called her bluff you think Mike’s has any real inclination, or the influence, to make good his challenge?

            But Mike’s backed into a corner by my acceptance of his challenge which puts the onus on Mike to make those arrangements. Since Mike doesn’t, and never had, any intention of making any such arrangements he’s stuck with the fairly transparent excuse that I’ve got to pick a date before he can lift a finger. I don’t but like a child in a similar position Mike clings to the only response he’s got left even if it is obvious it’s just a deflection and a childish deflection at that.

        • Mike in Texas says:

          Fine, Allen. Please post your driver’s license number, your home address, and other contact information so I can get your visit cleared. Also, I will have to supply a reason for your visit, and I don’t think “Because I’m a know-it-all who thinks Mike is an ass” will pass muster.

          Balls in your court

          • Mike in Texas says:

            BTW Allen, I never made the offer to let you teach my class, I have far too much respect for my students. I offered for you to come and observe. I made the assumption you would not wish to post your contact info here, so I asked you to email me, which you have refused to do.

          • Here’s the challenge:

            [blockquote]Yes, I think you two don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. As always Allen, the offer stands for you to come visit me and live the life of a teacher for a week or so and find out what its really like.[/blockquote]

            “Live the life of a teacher”.

            Got an interpretation for that besides “do what I do”?

            Of course not which is why you’re trying to saddle me with assignments. Your challenge, your burden to follow through but like Weingarten you know there’s no chance of having to follow through. It was a phony challenge from the start with no backup plan, if the challenge were accepted, but to obfuscate.

            Oh, and on the basis of past comments your respect for your students is identical to that of a dairy farmer for his cows.

  8. Mike in Texas says:

    And since you keep bringing up Stossel and Weingarten, here’s a link to what really happened:

    Finally, four days before what was supposed to be my first day of class, they canceled. Officially, “they” were the public school administrators who said it might be “disruptive” and that it might “set a precedent” that would open their doors to other reporters.

    So from Stossel’s own mouth, the union and Weingarten had nothing to do with his not being allowed to teach.

    • No, but thanks for the link that proves, as usual, that you’ll misrepresent just about anything if it serves your purposes.