Location, Location, Location

New paper on charter school finance from Bellwether out today (pdf). Press release can be found here and The Wall Street Journal editorial page weighs-in on it here.

Basically, Chris Lozier and I wanted to look at the disparities in funding between charter schools and other public schools through the lens of an actual high-performing charter school network in California.  Although there has been a great deal of talk about the sustainability of charter schools and CMOs there has been very little actual empirical analysis of their finances.

For this project Aspire Public Schools allowed us full access to their books and complete editorial freedom, and for that we’re grateful to their entire team, especially Mike Barr and James Willcox.  What we found is that the generic disparities in finance documented by a variety of researchers have a substantial impact on the finances of a CMO like Aspire and that Aspire’s finances would likely look very different (and mostly better) in different states.  In other words, but for its current location, Aspire might already be a compelling example of a high-performing network of public schools that can replicate and serve more students even more than it does now.

The analysis is pretty straightforward.  We used the data from the Ball State charter finance study, created indexes for costs and wages and estimated what Aspire’s actual finances would look like in 23 other states and D.C. (the places we had data for).  Punchline:  Much better in most.  That finding has implications for public policy, philanthropy and the larger conversation about charter school finance.

What’s more, because all public schools in California are underfunded, so charters there essentially receive an underfunding of an underfunding,  and because so many charter networks (and in particular name-brand ones like Aspire, KIPP, ICEF, and others) are in California, we think that examples and anecdotes from California are skewing the debate about charter sustainability.

Read the entire thing, it’s not long, here (pdf).

I also want to thank Exemplar Strategic Communications’ Patrick Riccards for helping on media with this project.  As I’ve noted before with other releases, he’s hard to beat for this kind of work.

2 Replies to “Location, Location, Location”

  1. Funding remains a sore point for many educational institutions. More funding in my opinion should be directed to public schools. If the nation is to remain an economic superpower , and thats at a very fragile state at the moment than more funding needs to go into education.

  2. I respectfully disagree with the above comment – “more funding.” A blank check for more funding will get us what the last 30 years got us – increased costs (almost double in real dollars) and little to no overall gains and only a slight reduction of the achievement gap.

    We need to maybe freeze funding, and re-direct it to biggest bang for the buck educational operations – high-quality charter schools and CMOs being an example that qualifies.

    Realistically, we’ll probably never see a freeze in year over year education funding with the country’s political spin cycle, but we need to spend our new dollars in the most effective way possible within public education.

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