July 28, 2014
Last week the University of Arkansas released a report entitled, The Productivity of Public Charter Schools. The report is a follow up to the University’s April 2014 national charter school revenue study, Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands. These studies utilized factual data regarding the amount of public money invested in public charter schools and the student achievement generated through this public school model to determine the economic payoff the public can expect to realize. In Missouri, where charter public schools receive approximately 25% less funding than traditional districts the study reveals an astounding 18.81 return on investment. These results are significant. Despite receiving fewer per pupil dollars, public charter schools are producing greater results on national math and reading assessments, and better long-term economic gains for students than traditional public schools.
The results are timely for St. Louis given the recent IFF release of an interactive map updating their 2008 study, Public School in St. Louis: Place, Performance, and Promise. This study asked where children live, where they attend school and if they have access to a quality school. The interactive map then identifies where new schools and improved schools are most needed. The extremely positive results from this study indicate that quality public education in the City of St. Louis is headed in the right direction through the contributions of both district schools and charter schools. The percentage of performing seats in charter public schools increased by 25% and charter public schools have made an almost 40% contribution to the number of performing public schools the City of St. Louis now has to offer.
Multiple studies, multiple pieces of data, what does all this mean? The answer is clear. Public school choice works! As parents we choose our children’s doctor, dentist, and have the right as citizens to make hundreds of choices. Why shouldn’t parents have the right to choose the public school that best meets the needs of their children?
Where do we go from here? Charter schools are PUBLIC schools and their students deserve equity in public funding. Denying charters some of the funding distributed to districts in the foundation formula, prohibitions on charters accessing local funding, and reduced or zero access to public facility funding are tantamount to telling parents that when they exercised their right to choose a public school they agreed the education of their children was worth less. In Missouri we must set a goal to move toward funding equity and utilize State policy to reduce the funding disparity. We urge Missouri’s legislative and educational leaders to commit to funding equity. Together we must ensure application of the foundation formula equally to districts and charter public schools. We must ensure charter public school have access to the same local funding traditional districts receive. Finally, we must stop the necessity of charter school governing boards to use school operating dollars for facility payments and determine avenues for charter public school access to public facility funds.
Missouri’s charter public schools are living up to their end of the bargain and demonstrating the ability to provide a high quality education. It’s time to move past ‘stepchild’ funding and ensure every public school in Missouri receives equitable funding.