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Do charter schools get more for less?

Michael Masch just recently wrote an article for The Notebook countering the claim that charter schools get less or more money than District schools. The article included some interesting and compelling differences. It included but was not limited to the following deductions that are not always considered when the cost per student paid to charter schools is calculated: the School District of Philadelphia covers transportation costs for charter, District, and nonpublic schools, it also covers the cost of educating children in institutions (developmental problems or delinquent behaviors), Central Administration costs (72 million), services to nonpublic schools (nurses), categorical grants (Title I), and food service (supplemented by mostly federal grant monies). The article was written to support to current Pennsylvania charter funding formula. It failed to mention the gross underfunding that exists in Philadelphia

David Lapp, a staff attorney from the Education Law Center, also added additional discrepancies in the comment section. He wrote, “It is also important to acknowledge that the charter sector (taken as a whole) educates a smaller proportion of students who are commonly the most costly to serve – students with severe disabilities, students in poverty, and English language learners.” These factors alone result in a higher cost for District schools. Additionally, Mr. Lapp wrote, “The fundamental differences which create a competitive advantage for charter schools would be illegal for school districts.” He mentions that the comparison between District run schools and Renaissance charters are more accurate because the latter service more students in at-risk or gifted categories than traditional charters. The differences that are not included in the aforementioned article by Masch can result in slightly higher spending for charters regardless if both are severely underfunded in Philadelphia. Read the Education Law Center charter school demographics analysis here.

A recent article also applauded a Renaissance model, Mastery Charter, for higher test scores in reading and math in schools with historical low scores while maintaining the same student population in converted neighborhood schools. While this is commendable, the downside is that the success is only being measured by test performance and does not shed a light on other course offerings like the arts or sciences. And Mastery Charter has yet to measure the success of students beyond graduation.

Continue to follow the new and continuous stories about charter schools, the Pennsylvania Education budget, and much more. Additionally, attend Standardized, a documentary film with a panel discussion on February 6 (info here).