Exploring the consequences of charter school expansion in U.S. cities
Posted by Economic Policy Institute on December 12, 2016
This report highlights patterns of charter school expansion across several large and mid-size U.S. cities since 2000. In this report, the focus is the loss of enrollments and revenues to charter schools in host districts and the response of districts as seen through patterns of overhead expenditures. I begin by identifying those cities and local public school districts that have experienced the largest shifts of students from district-operated to charter schools, and select from among those cities illustrative examples of the effects of charter school expansion on host district finances and enrollments.
Effects of charter expansion
District schools are surviving but under increased stress
In some urban districts, charter schools are serving 20 percent or more of the city or district-wide student population. These host districts have experienced the following effects in common:
- While total enrollment in district schools (the non-charter, traditional public schools) has dropped, districts have largely been able to achieve and maintain reasonable minimum school sizes, with only modest increases in the shares of children served in inefficiently small schools.
- While resources (total available revenues to district schools) have declined, districts have reduced overhead expenditures enough to avoid consuming disproportionate shares of operating spending and increasing pupil/teacher ratios.
- Despite expenditure cutting measures, districts simultaneously facing rapid student population decline and/or operating in states with particularly inequitable, under-resourced school finance systems have faced substantial annual deficits.
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