April 3, 2021

Mark Weber: The Fiscal Impact Of Charter Schools on School Districts

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Mark “Jersey Jazzman” Weber is a master of school finance research. He has often been critical of charter advocates and their arguments, which is why it may seem surprising that he agreed to do some research work for the pro-reform Fordham Institute. Fordham is already framing results to fit their agenda, but at the same time, the results do run contrary what some public ed supporters would expect. That makes Weber’s post about his work especially important.

What I had found – and what I still found in this latest report – is that as charter schools grow, per pupil spending in school districts increases. This is in contradiction to what some charter critics have suggested: that spending in host districts schools goes down as charters grow. To be honest, it was contrary to what I thought I was going to find,,, until I started digging further into the data.

Again: this report is hardly the last word on whether and how charter school growth affects school district finances. There are several very big limitations on what I found, and the approach I took does not at all lead us to a definitive answer as to whether charter growth is helpful, harmful, or neutral to district finances. That said, I hope, at the very least, the report helps frame the question in a way that is useful. Because, until now, I don’t think many charter supporters (like Fordham) or skeptics (like myself) have been viewing the problem the right way.
As he often does, Weber lays out the data and details in ways that are clear and comprehensible to the lay reader. Follow the link for the complete post.
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