New Report Paints California's Charter Schools As Economic Boondoggle That Has Little to Do with Student Need, Cost Efficiency, or Quality
A new report on California's charter schools may be one of the most scathing to date--in part because it does more than examine student achievement. Achievement studies inevitably raise methodological and interpretation debates. More simply, it is often unclear whether the studies are comparing apples to apples. This new study, however, filters charter schools through other more straightforward data and factors: locality need, cost efficiency, and legal compliance. On these measures, the report suggests that California's charter school expansion is a financial boondoggle. To use a baseball analogy, the disappointing quality of many of these schools is really just the fourth strike against a policy that should have already been called out. The report's introduction states:
From less than 200 schools in 1998, the California charter school industry has grown by more than 600%, to over 1,200 schools serving nearly 600,000 children, or nearly 10% of the state’s students. One of the sources fueling this growth is an extensive network of government programs that provide public funding or tax subsidies for charter school buildings. Over the past 15 years, California charter schools have received over $2.5 billion in tax dollars or taxpayer subsidized funds to lease, build, or buy school buildings. This report finds that this funding is almost completely disconnected from educational policy objectives, and the results are, in turn, scattershot and haphazard. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent each year without any meaningful strategy. Far too much of this public funding is spent on schools built in neighborhoods that have no need for additional classroom space, and which offer no improvement over the quality of education already available in nearby public schools. In the worst cases, public facilities funding has gone to schools that were found to have discriminatory enrollment policies and others that have engaged in unethical or corrupt practices.
The reports key findings include:
- Over the past 15 years, California charter schools have received over $2.5 billion in tax dollars or taxpayer subsidized funds to lease, build, or buy school buildings.
- Nearly 450 charter schools have opened in places that already had enough classroom space for all students—and this overproduction of schools was made possible by generous public support, including $111 million in Education Law Prof Blog: