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Charter Schools Make The Most of Public Funding

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New Evidence Finds Charter Schools More Cost Effective and Yield a Greater Return on Investment

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
July 22, 2014

Charter schools are on average more cost effective in delivering learning gains than traditional public schools, according to a new report released today by the University of Arkansas.

The first of its kind, “The Productivity of Public Charter Schools,” conducted on a national scale, analyzes the cost effectiveness and return on investment in the public education system.

“Not only are charter schools doing more with less, they are on the whole demonstrating a superior ability to act as responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform. “The importance of this body of research cannot be understated, as it ties charter funding to the most important aspect of education – student outcomes.”

For every $1,000 invested, charter schools delivered 17 additional points in math and 16 additional points in reading on the eighth grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Cost effectiveness was most pronounced in the District of Columbia, where charter schools were 109 percent more cost effective in terms of math scores, and 122 percent more cost effective in reading.

According to the Center for Education Reform’s 2014 Survey of America’s Charter Schools, charter schools on average received 36 percent less funding during the 2012-13 school year.

“These findings make funding inequities at the state level between charter and traditional schools all the more egregious,” said Kerwin. “Imagine the influence public charter schools could have on U.S. student outcomes if they received money in the same manner and the same amount as traditional public schools, including funding for facilities.”

“It’s critical lawmakers take note, as this research underscores the importance of having strong fiscal equity provisions in a state’s charter school law.”