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Report: Charter Schools Spend ‘Fewer Dollars to Achieve Better Outcomes’

By News

A new report from a team of researchers at the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform reinforces the market value of public charter schools. The report, “Still a Good Investment: Charter School Productivity in Nine Cities,” evaluated economic and academic metrics related to charter schools in a geographically diverse sample of U.S. cities. Researchers concluded: “We find that charter schools tend to demonstrate greater efficiency on both metrics of cost-effectiveness and return on investment, using fewer dollars to achieve better outcomes, relative to TPS (traditional public schools).”

The cities included: Camden, New Jersey; Denver, Colorado; Houston, Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; Memphis, Tennessee; New Orleans, Louisiana; New York City; San Antonio, Texas; and Washington, DC.

Here are some of the report’s key findings:

  • Charters are more cost-effective: Charter schools operate at a level of cost-effectiveness that is 40% higher than TPS. Researchers determined cost-effectiveness based on NAEP test score increases for every $1,000 in per pupil expenditures.
  • Charters produce higher ROI: Attending a charter school for 13 years increases ROI (return on investment) by over 58% compared to TPS. Practically speaking, for every dollar invested, charter school students recoup an additional $2.31 in lifetime earnings, relative to their peers in TPS. (See the table below.)

Source: “Still a Good Investment: Charter School Productivity in Nine Cities,” University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, November 2023.

Jeanne Allen, the founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform, commented on the report in a news release yesterday, noting:

The reason this is so valuable is because on a daily basis people discount the importance of charter schools. But it turns out when public schools have freedom and flexibility to do their work, are not hamstrung by traditional rules and regulations, and parents have these choices, students thrive. It’s no surprise that students who attend public charter schools in cities like Indianapolis and Washington, DC, despite receiving much less funding, achieve at a rate that is two to three times higher than their traditional public school counterparts.