BOULDER, CO (September 12, 2023) – Over the past decade, pro-charter organizations have published a series of reports claiming that funding disparities put charter schools at a disadvantage compared to public schools run by school districts. However, those conclusions are invariably incorrect due to flawed research methods.
In a policy memo released today by NEPC, Evaluating Research That Alleges Funding Disparities Between Charter and District Schools, Mark Weber of Rutgers University and the New Jersey Policy Perspective uses a recent “charter school funding inequity” report to illustrate these fundamental research flaws, thus providing a guide for stakeholders to evaluate the accuracy and transparency of related research.
Although the faulty methods used to support the “underfunded charter schools” claims have been repeatedly pointed out by third-party reviewers, there appears to be little willingness among the charter advocacy organizations to deviate from those methods. These problems include inadequate documentation of data, misunderstanding of financial transfers, invalid conflation of individual schools and school districts as units of analysis, invalid comparisons of student populations, invalid comparisons of the functions of charter and district public schools, unaccounted-for charter revenues, and neglect of the literature on charter school finances.
Charter School Funding Disparities: Los Angeles, California, essentially an advocacy report from the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, asserts that traditional public schools in Los Angeles (LAUSD) “have consistently received more funding per pupil than charter schools in LAUSD—anywhere from 22 to 40 percent more.” Weber uses an examination of this report and these claims to illustrate the problems with these analyses and to stress the importance of sound policymaking that serves all students equitably.
Due to charter schools’ substantial expansion in recent years, Weber also points out the importance of understanding and flagging such deceptive policy research. Redirecting additional funding to charters based on advocacy reports using unreliable data and flawed methods may have adverse effects on other schools and state budgets.
Find Evaluating Research That Alleges Funding Disparities Between Charter and District Schools, by Mark Weber, at: