The Ohio Department of Education released its most up-to-date school finance data Friday that shows Charter Schools costing districts big money, while thoroughly de-bunking the myth that the state money simply "follows the child" to the Charter School. The data don't include losses to Voucher programs or Open Enrollment, which also dramatically affect district bottom lines.
I have posted the spreadsheet here. The raw data comes from the Department, while the per pupil calculations are my own.
All tolled, the per pupil cut districts take after Charters get their payments costs them $264 million in direct state payments. This means that the $771 million now leaving districts for Charters removes so much state money it actually reduces the per pupil amount the state has to provide for the kids who remain at the traditional schools. In Ohio, only 23 of the more than 300 Charters would rate in the top half of all school districts on the Performance Index Score. According to the data released Friday, all districts lose at least some children to Charter Schools.
What these data demonstrate is that the $771 million isn't simply a shift in funding from one system to another, with districts receiving roughly the same per pupil money from the state, just for fewer pupils. That $771 million effectively eats into districts' bottom lines both in the aggregate and the per pupil level.
Some amazing figures: After Charters take their money, districts, on average, are left with $3,390 per pupil in state money to educate the children that remain. What do Charters receive from the state? $7,109 per pupil. That's a nearly 110% greater amount than districts end up receiving. Even without counting the Charter deduction, districts only get $3,625 per pupil from the state.
Once again, Charters pay their teachers half of what districts pay, don't have to adhere to about 200 different regulations and don't have to bus children. So their costs, at least in theory, shouldn't be nearly as much as districts'.
There are a few districts where Charters end up helping their bottom lines, though it is never enough to overcome the amount those districts transfer to Charters as part of the $771 million transferred to Charters from Districts. So Charters end up still costing these districts significant dollars, even though the districts' per pupil amount increases from the state.
The total amount "saved" in those 38 districts is $2.28 million -- over $1.5 million of which is "saved" in East Cleveland alone. Eliminate East Cleveland (which still loses $4 million a year to Charters), and the total is $693,446. By way of scale, those districts lose $11 million to direct Charter transfers. The districts' average "savings" is a little more than $18,000 per district. That's not $18,000 per pupil. That's $18,000 total. In no case did the per pupil "savings" overcome the amount directly transferred by the state from the district to the Charters.
As for the 572 districts where Charter losses cause a drop in per pupil funding, districts lose, on average, $465,825 due to this per pupil cut. Columbus loses more than $50 million simply because Charters cause such a steep drop in their per pupil funding. Akron, which is facing a $24 million deficit and recently decided to permanently cut 139 teaching jobs to deal with it, loses $7.5 million thanks to Charter Schools removing so much money it slashes the per pupil amount coming from the state. Youngstown, which is facing similar cuts, loses $2.5 million for this reason.
Cleveland, which is seeking to allow Charters to collect local revenue on top of the large per pupil state amount they receive, loses $3 million (about the amount they want Charters to get in local property taxes, ironically) because of the cut in per pupil state revenue caused by losses to Charter Schools. And Westerville, whose citizens are seeking to undo the levy that passed this March, loses $3.1 million a year because Charters remove so much money they severely cut the per pupil amount coming from the state.
I have said this before and I will say it again. And again. And again. I am not necessarily opposed to the idea of Charter Schools -- small incubators of innovation and creativity that can help mold and shape great techniques that can be scaled up to benefit all children.
I am opposed to the way Ohio funds these things because the state is valuing a parent's choice to send a child to a Charter School more than twice as much as a parent's choice to send a child to a traditional public school.
When Charters were brought to this state in 1998, Ohioans were told they'd be better and cheaper. Instead, they are generally performing worse (with a few noteworthy exceptions), end up costing the state more than twice as much per pupil, and devastate the bottom lines of school districts, forcing their educators to breathe in Space. This has especially been problematic since the end of the DeRolph school funding case, as can be seen here.
If this was simply a case of money following children, there would be no per pupil cut in districts' state money. Then we'd be talking about more nuance when it came to these Charter deductions -- arguments like, "while it doesn't hurt the per pupil figure, it still removes millions from districts who have to keep lights on, buses rolling and teachers and support staff paid." Instead, the argument is simple: Charter Schools remove so much money from school districts' bottom line, that nearly every kid who remains at the traditional school receives less support from the state than they otherwise would.
Charter Schools, thanks to this funding scheme, negatively impact the education of nearly every child who is not attending Charter Schools.
This is no longer a problem just for districts where Charters are located. This is a problem for every district, every child and every parent in the state.
For in Ohio, money does not follow the child; it follows the power.
Does anyone in Columbus notice the canary has stopped singing?