Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Charter school spending: Is it really less?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 10:28 AM

MORE IS MORE: KIPP schools benefit from private support.
  • MORE IS MORE: KIPP schools benefit from private support.
The Billionaire Boys Club held their charter school pep rally yesterday and one of the most popular cheers was that charter schools do more (no solid proof of that yet in any peer-reviewed comprehensive study) for less money than public schools. Billionaire Walmart heir Jim Walton was among those making the low-cost claim, even as he pushed for more state money for charter schools, particularly a bill that would funnel construction money to the KIPP charter schools in the Delta.

Good timing. Thanks to Diane Ravitch, I can pass along this analysis of KIPP's claim that it spends less than conventional schools. The writer calls B.S. Public records readily available in Texas are among his supporting documents. KIPP may get less in some jurisdictions from the state than real public schools, but they've been richly supported by outside money — $308 million from foundations nationwide. The Waltons, for example, have poured huge sums into their favored charter schools in Arkansas, including KIPP. From the website Cloaking Inequity:

KIPP was just flat out dishonest in saying that they don’t spend more than traditional public schools. That information is available in the internet by double clicking on the numbers below. Texas state law requires that they report their revenues. Here is their charge and my response:

Vasquez Heilig makes the inaccurate claim that KIPP receives $3,361 more in total revenue than the Houston Independent School District, and incorrectly infers that KIPP Houston spends more per pupil than the district. In reality, KIPP Houston, like all public charter schools in Texas, receive less per pupil funding than district schools and no public revenue for facilities. Excluding private funds raised to cover facilities costs, KIPP Houston spends less per student per year than HISD.

KIPP is incorrect. NEPC also thinks so here. Its hard to argue with publicly available data that they themselves are required to report by law. Per student revenue for KIPP Austin ($17,286) and KIPP Houston ($13,488) relative to Austin ISD ($10,667) and Houston ISD ($10,127) is readily available online each year from the State of Texas. However, considering the current school finance debacle in Texas, where approaching $6 billion was cut from education in the last legislature, in retrospect, I think KIPP should be applauded for spending more on education…

The inequity isn't only about money. Real public schools, of course, are unable to discourage attendance of children of disinterested parents, special ed students and chronic behavior problems. Charter schools can, in time if not on the front end, effectively self-select kids more likely to succeed on account of family participation in contracted education obligations.

It's social engineering of a sort. And, in truth, it addresses the place where any education solution must begin — at the family level. But it should be remembered when the subject of supposed superior performance comes up against those that most take all comers, particularly in the poorest neighborhoods. (But I'd also invite you to note that some of the most highly touted charter middle schools in Arkansas didn't make the "achieving" category on the most recent standardized testing. Turns out that's a hard grade level just about anywhere, even in those miraculous charter schools with their huge private support, dedicated parents and non-union teachers who really care about kids, unlike the no-count slugs that Luke Gordy insults regularly as a paid hack for the Waltons.)

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