How charter schools bankrupt public school systems

You may have heard that charter schools defund public school districts. This statement might leave you scratching your head.

  • After all, if a child goes to a charter school, isn’t that just one less kid BPS has to educate?
  • Doesn’t the money follow the child?

Neither of these questions get to the real problem. That is because it is intentionally confusing. Most public school parents don’t realize how charter schools are used so that the legislature actually ends up paying less money for education overall. The state legislature is not paying for the charter schools they allow to open. The local school district is paying for them. The easiest way to think about this is that they are unfunded mandates.

It is not a matter of whether you are for or against charter schools. The real question is whether or not public schools should be defunded.

Furthermore, the vast majority of charter schools are in poor, urban areas. The schools systems that are bankrupt by charters serve some of the most vulnerable students.

I made this video to explain to people how it works.

Note: I was using numbers from the Boston Municipal Research Bureau. My friend and fellow education activist, Karen Kast, believes that the numbers are actually much more dire for public schools. She is working on a blog post explaining the reality. I will link to it once she has it up.


6 thoughts on “How charter schools bankrupt public school systems

  1. Thank you for explaining this. I’d really been trying to get a grasp on it and now I do. So, can you do another one to show how it happens that Boston also loses land and buildings to charter schools and the foundations that fund raise for them? This is a profound loss. All charter school holdings can be found on Boston Assessing website Example This property was industrial or commercial until 2010 so Boston loses RE tax revenue in perpetuity. In other cases I believe the charter school owns what was a Boston Public School. Do you know?

    • Hi DB, your comment is so interesting. I actually never thought of the implications. I never thought of the lost tax revenue.

      One thing I have been wondering about is associate costs like transportation. I know that Boston is responsible for transportation to charters so there is another layer where charters are not cost effective for the city.

  2. A charter school recently opening in our area and my friend is sending her son there. I wondered how the whole process works and who is paying for it. A very eye-opening article and video.

  3. Pingback: Bill Allowing Charter School Debt Threatens Education Funds in Oklahoma | Life at the Intersections

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