Eye on Education

As a Group, Ohio Urban Charter Schools Deliver Similar Performance for Less Money

Use our sortable table of performance and expenditures by charter schools and traditional public schools in Ohio's largest urban districts.

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 view varies by district: You can use our sortable table of district and charter school performance to see how each area measures up.)

Thirteen years in, Ohio charter schools as a group haven’t lived up to the promise of doing things better and cheaper than traditional public schools. But they have shown what is possible: That a school can spend less money than traditional public schools and deliver better results.

Why is that?

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.

But What About [Blank]?

This analysis takes into account some of the nuances of Ohio’s public education system. It compares charter schools in each “Big 8″ urban school district’s county to the traditional public schools in the county’s largest school district in order to provide, to the extent possible, similar populations. It removes transportation from the expenditure category, since traditional public schools are required to provide transportation but charter schools are not. And it includes charter schools sponsored by both non-profits and those sponsored by school districts.

But it doesn’t break out different types of charter schools (online-only schools vs. traditional classroom-instruction-based schools, for example). It doesn’t look at charter schools outside of these eight districts such as those in suburban and other urban districts. It doesn’t take into account any demographic or cultural differences between students enrolled in traditional public schools and those in charter schools within the “big 8″ districts. And it doesn’t take into account the level of disability of the students enrolled in each type of school.

Plus, looking at charter schools vs. traditional public schools doesn’t take into account the wide range of academic models — and academic performance — among both types of schools.

We asked Piet van Lier, a researcher at Policy Matters Ohio, to take a look at our data analysis. He suggested some of the caveats listed above. And then he said:

The simple and obvious way to make these kinds of comparisons is rarely as meaningful as we would like it to be. This might be one of those situations.



  • http://americansocietytoday.blogspot.com/ American Society Today

    This analysis assumes that the state standardized tests are a valid measure. This does not include broader measures of critical thinking, character, art, music, athletics, community service and a host of other measures. On average, the charter schools have 6% fewer low-income students, which statistically tend to not perform as well on standardized tests. The charter schools also have 2% fewer disabled students. With a more favorable student population, the charter schools only have 1% more students at grade level according to the standardized tests.

  • smith

    According to the results of this analysis, “The biggest reason charter schools spend less than traditional public schools is because their payroll costs are lower”. In other words, they pay their teachers peanuts.

    So, who do you think those teachers are? They are the teachers who the public schools didn’t hire. Some are “Teach for America” volunteers –the qualifications include basically a BA, in anything, and a GPA as low as 2.50. Their teaching credentials may be non-existent, with the exception of a 5-week summer training course. Many charter schools hire people to teach who have absolutely no formal training in education at all, just college degrees. This is a fact. I don’t know about you, but when I go to visit my dentist, I enjoy the feeling of confidence I get, knowing he’s had formal training in his field and has been deemed accomplished in the practice of dentistry, as signified by the certificates and degrees hanging on his wall. I don’t think I want just anybody teaching my children, no matter how enthusiastic or well-intentioned; I’d like to think they know what they’re doing– they’re more important than my teeth.

    • Pkay

      Some of your statements are incorrect. Charter schools in Ohio have to hire licensed teachers just like the district schools do. They are not allowed to hire anyone without a teaching license. In addition to that, those people that you give an example about (Teach for America) have a bachelors degree in the area that they want to teach (like math or science or english, etc…) and are given the education courses to go with what they have already been qualified to do. Charter schools have very good teachers, they don’t have the classroom experience and that affects their pay.

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