In the 2012-13 school year, charter schools received over $829 million in state taxpayer dollars to educate just over 116,000 children – an average of $7,144.86 per child. By comparison, after this money was deducted from payments to Ohio’s local public school districts, those districts received just shy of $5.5 billion to educate the remaining 1.7 million children. While that may sound like a high dollar figure, it averages out to only $3,125.30 per student.
What this means is that last year, charter schools in Ohio received, on average, over twice as much (2.29 times, to be exact) per student in taxpayer funds. We’re always looking for new ways to put these figures in perspective, so let’s take a look at an analogy that everyone can likely relate to – buying a car.
For $19,500, we can by a brand new, 2014 Fiat 500 – a cute, 2-door hatchback. We’ll use this car to represent the average amount of state funds going to Ohio’s local school districts per student. Nothing fancy, but it will get us around town.
Now, what about the charter school’s car? While we had $19,500 to spend, the charter school gets a budget equivalent of 2.29 times that amount – approximately $44,600. For that amount, the taxpayer funds can go to purchase something just a bit better than our Fiat – how about a 2015 Volvo S80? This 4-door sedan seats five comfortably and is a real beauty with a load of safety features.
Which car would you rather have? And what are the taxpayers getting in return for this greater investment?
The truth is that across the state, charter schools are not performing as well as our local public schools. To follow our car analogy, not only aren’t the charters performing like that Volvo S80, very few charters are even performing as good as our little Fiat. In fact, most of Ohio’s charter schools are performing more like an AMC Pacer from the late 70s.
In Ohio, Governor Kasich and GOP-dominated legislature have not only promoted a continuation of this scheme, they have implemented budgets that encourage unfettered expansion of charters across the state – they are continuing to provide funds for Volvos, but are instead purchasing AMC Pacers (at the Volvo’s sticker price).
Meanwhile, we have many districts across Ohio that are “wheeling-and-dealing” with their limited state funds and somehow ending up with the equivalent of high-end sports cars. In the past, we looked at the difference between the state funds that the very-high-performing Olentangy Local School District received compared to what they had to pay out to charter schools.
Olentangy received only $441.43 per student from the state while the charters took away $10,124 for each student they pulled from the district. This means that the charters received 22.9 times as much funding as did Olentangy.
Let’s look at this in terms of our car purchasing power. If Olentangy is able to purchase a nice, American-made Chevy Cruze ($19,910), then what type of car would we expect those charters pulling children and money from the local district to represent with the equivalent price of over $450,000?
The charters might use their budget to settle on a 2014 Lamborghini Aventador.
Yet as we again look at the performance of these charters as compared to Olentangy, the local school district looks more like the slick Lamborghini while the charters appear more like a used Chevy Chevette.
Why are Olentangy residents forced to pay the price for high-end Italian sports cars while only receiving used clunkers in return?
The Kasich Administration keeps pushing the concept of school choice as a method of school reform, believing that this supposed “competition” will improve all schools. In reality, we have over a decade worth of data that shows that not only don’t charters perform better than the local school districts, they don’t even perform as well as the local public schools.
In the terms of our car-purchasing analogy, Ohio’s taxpayers are shelling out money that should be buying Volvos and Lamborghinis, yet we’re being given Pacers and Chevettes in return.
If this was your money that you were investing, would you be satisfied with these returns?
Ohioans, this IS your money. Will you continue to let Governor Kasich waste it?