One of the most common arguments made against charter schools is that they financially harm traditional public schools. However, new research from the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CPRE) helps debunk this claim. The CRPE study looked at school districts in California and found no evidence that charter school enrollment increases the likelihood of financial distress (defined as a condition in which is a district is likely to fall short of financial obligations in the next two years) in California school districts.
The study found no statistically significant correlation between the financial status of school districts and their charter enrollment. Charter school critics note that when a student transfers from a traditional public school to a charter school, their previous school no longer receives funding associated with that student (which makes perfect sense, since the school is no longer responsible for the student). But the data in the study gives no indication this process is causing financial problems for districts. When CRPE looked at long-term trends regarding charter enrollment and the number of districts in financial distress, it found that while charter enrollment has steadily increased, the number of districts in financial distress has remained steady.
Many factors contribute to financial struggles in school districts. Costs of pensions, benefits and grossly overestimating enrollment can cause a district to be short on money. These are the real causes of financial troubles in school districts, not the convenient bogeyman of charter schools. While the study looked at California schools, there’s no real reason to think the results would be different in Missouri. Charter schools shouldn’t be limited in Missouri out of misplaced worry that they will financially harm school districts; they should instead be expanded for the opportunities they provide students.