I’ve been talking the past few days about some remarkable information in a new federal study on school district funding across the nation. What makes this study especially unique is that it separately reports fiscal data for the 1,673 school districts around the country where EVERY school is a charter school. Of course, none of those charter districts are found in Kentucky because we don’t have charter schools here.
I overviewed some of the implications in this report over the past few days, but now let’s dig a bit deeper.
The table below presents a state ranking I assembled for the median per pupil revenue by state for regular, non-charter districts in the US. That ranking does include every school district in Kentucky because, again, we don’t officially have charter schools (the Model Lab Schools at EKU and the Gatton School of Science at WKU operate much like charters, but they are not officially charter schools). Note that Kentucky ranks fairly low for per pupil funding, but (at the risk of sounding like a TV ad), wait – there’s more.
Read down near the bottom of the table to see that while Kentucky’s 2006-07 median school district funding is $9,491 per pupil from all sources, local – state – federal, the median charter-school-only district funding elsewhere was considerably lower – only $8,677 per pupil.
In fact, the median charter-school-only district’s revenue is lower than the regular district median revenue in all but five states, and it’s over $2,000 lower than the US wide figure – nearly 20 percent lower.
The table above also shows that the median revenue for regular school districts in 12 states is at least 50 percent higher than the median amount the charter-only districts receive.
Clearly, charters in the federal study are operating at much lower cost than regular districts. That is undoubtedly due at least in part to the charter schools’ release from most of the burdensome, expensive and reform-stifling regulations that regular schools have to obey.
Unfortunately, the federal report doesn’t provide separate testing results for the charter-only districts. However, several reports indicate that on average overall charters perform about as well academically as public schools. If that general finding also pertains to the charter-only districts, then charter schools would be far more efficient for taxpayers.
One last note – the anti-charter crowd in Kentucky claims that charter schools won’t work well in our many rural school districts. That may not be true. Apparently, people in other states have thought about this issue and realize that one way to overcome this supposed problem is to convert all the schools in a district into charter schools. That allows the whole district to benefit from the educational flexibility that a charter provides.
Certainly, in the sad cases in Kentucky where entire school districts have failed to make No Child Left Behind goals for years and years, converting the entire district to a charter district might be a very good option for us to pursue.
We hear from states with charter schools that they open the door to real school flexibility. Charters can go out and do what works best for children free from bureaucratic reform-stifling restrictions that seem more focused on protecting adults in the system rather than educating the system’s true customers – the public school students of Kentucky.