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Counting Coins: Money Matters For School Choice

Dec 6

By Christopher Pitts

  • Nationwide, charter schools are funded at 61% of their district counterparts
  • Unlike traditional district schools, charter schools do not receive funding to cover the cost of securing a facility

Over the past few decades, minority parents are seeing school choice as a strategy to improve educational outcomes for their children. However, school choice often becomes a fight over money, and to put it plainly allows for the redirection of public funds for a student’s education. It begs the question, whether or not school choice, specifically charter schools as establishments operating with fewer regulations, are draining dollars from  traditional public schools and creating an unequal system?

Why This Matters: Both public schools, and charters, are primarily funded on a per-student basis, so fewer students means less money. When local students leave the district system for charter schools, the district has less to spend on the students who remain. Critics of school choice believe this can leave major implications for the traditional school. On the other hand, charter school advocates feel the money should follow the child. For example, in Ohio, traditional public school advocates claim charter schools take away state funds from local school systems starting at $6,020 per student.

Charter schools are funded at 61% of their district counterparts, averaging $6,585 per student compared to $10,771 per student at conventional district public schools

Even with the redirection of funding, charter schools are still not receiving the same funding as their traditional counterparts. Nationwide, on average, charter schools are funded at 61% of their district counterparts, averaging $6,585 per student compared to $10,771 per student at conventional district public schools.

Furthermore, unlike traditional district schools, charter schools do not receive funding to cover the cost of securing a facility. As the fight over money continues, more and more public school students will likely be forced into overcrowded classrooms and to study in schools without basic resources which disproportionately impacts low-income and minority students.

Situational Awareness: Themes of empowerment, innovation and control make the school choice movement appealing and provide a platform for parental freedom. Proponents of school choice cite better quality charter schools that are safer and allow for innovation. The ideological debate over funding for the charter and traditional public schools is not going away, and is likely to grow more intense over time.  

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Disclosure: The Walton Family Foundation provides financial support to CultureBanx