Schooled Reporting on education

More educational bang for your buck

Education | Study shows charter schools are often more cost-effective
by Laura Edghill
Posted 5/01/19, 04:06 pm

Charter schools in eight large U.S. cities provide a 53 percent better return on investment than their regular public school counterparts, a recently released study concluded. The University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform compared the cost-effectiveness of schools by dividing student scores on the reading and math portions of the National Assessment of Educational Progress by per-pupil funding. The study’s authors said they wanted to find which type of taxpayer-funded schooling offers the biggest “bang for the buck,” or return-on-investment (ROI).

When viewed individually, the cities—Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, New York, San Antonio, and Washington—showed a broad range of ROI values. Atlanta’s charter schools had the best ROI score, but Houston scored in the top three for charter and public schools and had the smallest difference in ROI between the two. Atlanta charter schools had dramatically lower per-pupil funding than any of the other cities surveyed, while the Houston public schools are high quality and produced competitive ROI values by comparison, according to the study’s authors.

“Public charter schools in these eight U.S. cities are a good public investment in terms of the comparative amount of student achievement they produce for the funding they receive,” they wrote, noting some limitations in their analysis. The study’s authors did not look at differences in operating costs between charter and public schools, which in some areas have outdated, expensive-to-maintain buildings. Charter schools sometimes make lucrative real estate deals and also benefit from government financing plans.

“Running a nonprofit charter school can still be a highly lucrative undertaking—all financed with taxpayer dollars,” education analyst Peter Greene wrote in Forbes last year.

The study also did not analyze the reasons for differences in standardized test performance between the two types of schools. Issues like transience or population mobility rates, as well as a comparison of how many students have special education needs, would have added valuable nuance and detail.

“The most comprehensive research reports conclude that, though results vary across states and charter school networks, on average public charter schools have a positive effect on student achievement,” the report concluded.

Facebook/Lead from the Heart: Transformational Leadership for the 21st Century Facebook/Lead from the Heart: Transformational Leadership for the 21st Century Principal Carlotta Outley Brown

Setting the bar high

A high school principal in Houston is under fire for a recently implemented dress code policy that tells parents what they can and cannot wear on school property.

Don’t bother showing up at James Madison High School in hair rollers, any type of protective hair covering, pajamas, torn jeans, leggings, sagging pants, or dresses that are “up to your behind,” noted a letter from Principal Carlotta Outley Brown to parents.

The communication followed an incident in which KPRC-TV in Houston reported that mother Joselyn Lewis was turned away from the school when she attempted to enroll her daughter. School officials said her hair scarf and T-shirt dress were not in compliance with the school’s dress code.

But Lewis was just protecting her hair, she claimed. Scarves and other types of hair coverings like satin caps and bonnets are commonly worn by African American women to protect their hair from moisture and other damaging elements. Parents, community members, and teachers quickly voiced objections to the policy.

“I’m sorry, this principal may have plenty of money and time to go to the hairdresser weekly and have her stuff done,” Houston Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo told the Houston Chronicle. “Who are you to judge others who may not have the same opportunities that you do? Having a wrap on your head is not offensive. It should not be controversial.”

Brown, who is also African American, made clear that setting high expectations for the school’s students motivated her.

“Parents, we do value you as a partner in your child’s education. You are your child’s first teacher,” Brown wrote. “However, please know we have to have standards, most of all we must have high standards.” She explained that in order to effectively prepare for the future, students need to know what appropriate attire is for professional situations like a job interview, or visiting someone in a business setting.

In a school that lags far behind the state averages in both English and Math, as well as SAT scores, it seems that Brown has good reasons to set the bar high. —L.E.

Associated Press/Photo by Phil Sears Associated Press/Photo by Phil Sears Florida state Sen. Manny Diaz Jr.

More school choice in Florida …

The Florida Senate passed a multifaceted education bill last week that included education savings accounts that would bolster school choice for some of the state’s most vulnerable low-income families. Family Empowerment Scholarships would allow parents of qualifying students to use taxpayer funds formerly allotted solely to their local public school toward the school of their choice instead.

“It’s paramount that our students have opportunity, regardless of their ZIP code or status, to reach the best educational environment possible,” Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., a Republican and one of the bill’s sponsors, told the Miami Herald Thursday. “I think it’s a monumental day today in Florida.”

Education policy watchers expect a court battle on this one. In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court shot down a similar proposal under former Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican. The court cited the fact that the funds could be used toward private religious schools as justification for ruling against the program.

But current Gov. Ron DeSantis, also a Republican, appointed three conservative judges to the court this past January, making its composition very different from 13 years ago.

The bill also establishes new categories for teacher bonuses, expands the proximity range for new charter schools to open near persistently low-performing public schools, and eases some testing requirements for aspiring teachers. The House is expected to pass its version of the bill this week, and DeSantis has indicated he will sign the legislation when it reaches his desk. —L.E.

Associated Press/Photo by Mark Humphrey Associated Press/Photo by Mark Humphrey Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at Cameron Middle School in Nashville, Tenn., on April 1

… and Tennessee

The Tennessee legislature last week passed a proposal championed by Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, that also establishes education savings accounts (ESAs) for students in the state’s most beleaguered schools. Tennessee is one of a handful of states that already provide ESAs for some students with special needs, but this proposal would offer the option to thousands of students in the state’s lowest-performing public school districts. A proposed $7,300 in public funds would follow individual students to schools of their parents’ choice—public or private—and would even be available to homeschooled students.

School choice advocates hail the legislation as a major victory for families in Tennessee’s struggling schools. The bills now head to both the House and Senate Finance committees. —L.E.

Laura Edghill

Laura Edghill is a freelance writer, church communications director, and public school board member living in Clinton Township, Mich., with her engineer husband and three sons. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Follow Laura on Twitter @LTEdghill.

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Comments

  • OldMike
    Posted: Sat, 05/11/2019 05:42 am

    It’s very telling that this nation’s teacher unions consistently oppose school choice and charter schools. 

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