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ERIC Number: ED519239
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 17
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Location, Location, Location: How Would a High-Performing Charter School Network Fare in Different States?
Lozier, Chris; Rotherham, Andrew J.
Bellwether Education Partners
In this paper the authors do not examine different operating strategies for charter schools or analyze the impact of their often educationally intensive models on finance. Instead, because public charter schools are funded predominantly by public dollars, they simply ask what impact location--and its associated variances in public funding and the cost of providing an education--exert on charter school finance. In other words, they know that charters generally receive less funding than other public schools--a problem made more acute in places where even the funding for traditional public schools is insufficient. They also know that the cost of providing an education varies considerably across states. In particular, 17% of the nation's 5,453 charter schools, including some of the highest-profile charter school networks and charter schools in the country, are located in California, a state with high labor and facilities costs and widely considered to have inadequate education funding overall. As a result, they believe that public finance plays an outsized but too little examined role in the debate about the sustainability of public charter schools. Examining this, the authors conducted a thought experiment using the finances of Aspire Public Schools, a large and highly successful network of public charter schools in California. Imagine Aspire could be dropped into another state, adjust expenses for the local conditions, and adjust public funding based on what local schools typically receive. Would Aspire's financial position be improved? Would Aspire still require philanthropy--as it does now--to operate its network of schools? These questions are important for the light they shed on two larger questions: (1) Is Aspire already an example of a high-performing and affordable system of schools that just happens to be swimming upstream in a particularly difficult environment, or does it remain a work in progress toward the goal of becoming a high-performing school network that the taxpayer can afford?; and (2) Is California fiscally more challenging than other states, and how do the most populous charter states stack up in this regard? The authors hypothesized that in different states Aspire might enjoy higher revenue, lower costs, or both. This paper provides policymakers with a high-level glimpse at what some of these hypothetical situations would look like in practice. By using research on state charter funding and geographic K-12 expense variances as well as a proxy for cost of facilities, the authors estimate what Aspire's 2006-07 financial performance would have been in 23 other states (including the District of Columbia) that have charter schools and were included in a recent comprehensive analysis of charter school finances. (Contains 7 figures and 17 endnotes.)
Bellwether Education Partners. e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: Policymakers
Language: English
Sponsor: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Authoring Institution: Bellwether Education Partners
Identifiers - Location: California