In general, charter schools nationwide spend about $1,800 less per student than traditional public schools, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Education this week.
The report shows that median expenditures for traditional public school districts are $10,977 versus $9,146 for charter schools.
The biggest reason for the difference? Teachers salaries. Nationally, charter schools spend about $1,200 less on instruction (which is mostly those people who provide the instruction) than traditional public schools.
We found a similar situation in our look at Ohio urban charter schools’ spending earlier this year. (If you don’t feel like reading the full story, the headline sums it up nicely: As a Group, Ohio Urban Charter Schools Deliver Similar Performance for Less Money.):
Ohio charter schools in the state’s “Big 8″ urban districts perform about the same as other public schools in those districts — at about three-fourths of the cost…
The biggest reason charter schools spend less than traditional public schools is because their payroll costs are lower. That’s partly because charter schools generally pay teachers less, but it’s also because charter school teachers tend to be earlier on in their careers — and at the lower end of the salary schedule.
And the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which represents about 180 Ohio charter schools, says there are two other reasons that charter schools get less money from the state per student than traditional public schools. (You can read their full analysis here.):
Unfortunately, the gap is even larger for two reasons. First, in addition to this basic funding disparity, community schools receive no facilities support. While districts have access to allocated facilities funding and institutional resources such as the Ohio School Facilities Commission, they also have bonding authority. Community schools have none of these. Consequently, community schools must use their per-pupil classroom and teaching resources for bricks and mortar.
Second, community schools in Ohio report enrollment on a monthly basis and are paid based upon that monthly enrollment figure. If a charter school student leaves the school, the funding for that student stops. District schools are funded differently. They have an October “count” date in which they report enrollment. As students drop out during the course of the year, the funding stays the same. The net effect of this is that district schools’ per-pupil funding actually increases as the financial float from dropouts moves over to the remaining students. Again, not so for charter schools.
U.S. Total Expenditures per Pupil:
Charter Schools vs. Traditional Public Schools
|5th percentile||Median||95th percentile|
|Regular noncharter school districts||$8,205||$10,977||$21,844|
|Independent charter school districts||$5,715||$9,146||$18,885|
|Notes: Data is for the 25 states that reported both elementary and secondary regular noncharter school districts and independent charter school districts for the 2009 fiscal year. The terms “regular noncharter school districts” and “independent charter school districts” are used by the National Center for Education Statistics to identify school district types for this report.|