Charter schools, which are publicly-funded but independent schools, are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to traditional public schools. A recent report by the University of Arkansas, “Making it County: The Productivity of Public Charter Schools in Seven U.S. Cities,” has found that based on a study of seven major cities, charter schools are more cost-effective than traditional public schools — and help students out-earn their traditional public school counterparts.
For each of these cities, the charter schools yielded more learning per education dollar spent. Using the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the study found that charter schools were 43 percent more cost-effective in reading and 43 percent more effective in math. In looking at the return on investment, the charter schools surpassed the traditional public schools by approximately 46 percent over a 13-year period of Kindergarten through twelfth grade.
The report also showed greater lifetime earnings per student in charter schools: each dollar invested in traditional public schools yields $5.46 in earnings compared to $8 in charter schools. This translates into $487,177 more in lifetime earnings for the student in charter schools than in traditional public schools.
Interestingly, these charter schools are more effective despite having 33 percent less funding.
With statistics such as these, charter schools seem to present an optimal model for cost-effective education. However, charter schools are often strongly opposed by teachers’ unions. In a July 4, 2017, article, the National Education Association summarized their new NEA Policy Statement on Charter Schools, stating they “will boost NEA’s forceful support of state and local efforts to limit [emphasis added] charter growth and increase charter accountability, and slow the diversion of resources from neighborhood public schools to charters.”
The University of Arkansas study is clear: it’s time to take a good look at charter schools and continue to give them the opportunity to improve public schooling.