May 14, 2012

KIPP and other non-profit charter management organizations spend more per pupil, raising questions about scalability

A new report concludes that many well-known charter school networks spend more money per pupil than regular public schools serving comparable populations.

Released by the National Education Policy Center, at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the analysis examines charter schools' 990 filings through the Internal Revenue Service, and state and local data, focusing on charter school spending in three states: New York, Ohio, and Texas.

From NEPC Press Release: "We find that in New York City, KIPP, Achievement First and Uncommon Schools charter schools spend substantially more ($2,000 to $4,300 per pupil) than similar district schools. Given that the average spending per pupil was around $12,000 to $14,000 citywide, a nearly $4,000 difference in spending amounts to an increase of some 30%. In Ohio, charters across the board spend less than district schools in the same city. And in Texas, some charter chains such as KIPP spend substantially more per pupil than district schools in the same city and serving similar populations, around 30 to 50% more in some cities (and at the middle school level) based on state reported current expenditures, and 50 to 100% more based on IRS filings."

It concludes that the charter school networks studied in New York spend more per pupil than nearby traditional public schools serving similar populations and grade levels. Schools in the Achievement First charter network spent about $660, or 5 percent, more than the regular public schools. Green Dot spent as much as $1,500, or 11 percent, more; and KIPP spending was significantly higher—33 percent, or $4,300, more per pupil than the neighborhood public schools.

The findings for charter spending were similar in Texas. In Ohio, however, charters consistently spent less than traditional public schools—anywhere between 10 percent and 30 percent less per pupil, the report found.

But officials for KIPP, or Knowledge Is Power, were highly critical of the report. They said it includes nonschool costs for KIPP charters in New York, and does not account for the rapid growth at the time for the charter schools studied in Texas—growth that would have driven up per-pupil costs—and did not consistently offer comparable figures for regular public schools. (Source: Education Week)


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