Tough Truth about Charter Schools – Drawing Students from Private Schools!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Daily News had an opinion piece on charter schools yesterday by Adam Schaeffer, a policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom.   The Cato Institute is a libertarian think-tank that receives funding from the likes of the Koch, Schaife, and Olin Foundations.  Schaeffer references a report that examines enrollment figures and concludes that a large percentage of students in charter schools is made up of students who previously would have or were enrolled in private schools.  Here is an excerpt:

“The Cato Institute Center for Educational Freedom commissioned Richard Buddin, a former senior economist with the Rand Corp., to look at the enrollment effects of charter schools.

Buddin found that charters serving primary school students in highly urban districts take almost a third of their students from private schools, on average. Urban charters draw nearly a quarter of their middle school students and more than 15% of their high school students from the private sector. Even in nonurban districts, charters pull between 7% and 11% of all their students from private schools.

All this translates into about 190,000 students a year who otherwise would have been in private schools now attending public charter schools.

Charter students who migrated from private schools cost taxpayers about $1.8 billion a year, based on Buddin’s numbers — as well as figures from a Ball State University study on charter school funding. Since the most recent data available for the analysis are from 2008, that figure is likely much higher today…

And while charter schools may marginally improve the public education system on average, they are wreaking havoc on private education. Because charter schools take a significant portion of their students from private schools and cause a drop in private enrollment, they drive some schools entirely out of business.”

While Schaeffer does not mention parochial schools per se, many of them have had to close in the past decade precisely because of the growth in charter schools.

Schaeffer’s solution to this is to expand school choice to include tax credits for parents sending their children to private schools.  I don’t agree with his conclusion.  It seems we need to figure out how to concentrate resources to improve the public schools in our poorer urban areas first.



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