How To Correctly Compare Charter and Public District Schools
Jersey Jazzman (artist's conception)
Why do states collect education data if they won't use it properly?
I found myself asking this question once again this week as I read through a "Comment/Response Form" put together by the New Jersey Department of Education and released earlier this month. The form was in response to the state Board of Education, which is evaluating a series of changes in charter school regulations. Those changes, as I wrote in my last post, include loosening certification requirements for charter teachers.
The rationale for this, according to the state's charter cheerleaders, is that charters "do more with less"; in other words, they get better results and spend less money than public district schools. Chris Christie has repeatedly made this case in his push for the disastrous "Fairness Formula," which would rob urban districts, serving many more disadvantaged children, of necessary state aid. Christie points to the alleged efficiency of charter schools to justify these cuts: if they can "do more with less," why can't the district schools?
In their form, the NJDOE included this argument in response to a question from a member of the state BOE (p. 8):
12. COMMENT: The commenter asked for the per pupil cost for charter school students based on a random sampling of 10 percent of charter schools and their districts of residence. The commenter also asked if the proposed amendments to N.J.A.C. 6A:26-7.5 will affect the per pupil cost. (C)
RESPONSE: The proposed amendments to N.J.A.C. 6A:26-7.5 will not affect per pupil costs for students attending charter schools.
This response is immediately followed by this chartJersey Jazzman: How To Correctly Compare Charter and Public District Schools:The 2014-2015 Taxpayers’ Guide to Education Spending was used to determine per pupil costs in charter schools and in districts of residence. The table below provides information on per pupil spending for eight charter schools that were selected randomly. Charter schools are ordered by the size of the difference in per pupil spending between the main sending district and the charter school. Per pupil spending in 2014-2015 in the eight charter schools ranged from $12,845 (compared to $23,466 in the main sending district) to $18,541 (compared to $22,013 in the main sending district). (emphasis mine)