Saturday, November 22, 2008

Public charter schools save tax dollars, study shows

The Buckeye Institute has released a study showing public charter schools provide a great value to Ohio's K-12 education system. Report co-authors Matthew Carr and Beth Lear found closing existing public charter schools will result in reduced per pupil spending levels in each of the "Big 8" city school systems. Significant property tax increases would be required to maintain current per student funding levels.

The report examined the financial impact of public charter schools on the finances of nearby traditional public schools. Specifically, it analyzed the implications for taxpayers in each of Ohio's "Big 8" city school systems if the charter school program were discontinued and all students returned to their residentially assigned traditional public schools.

"The public relations war against educational choice by Ohio's government school bureaucracy has often focused on how alternative schools are financed," report co-author Matthew Carr said. "Our research carefully examined claims made regarding public charter school finance and its financial impact on nearby traditional public school districts."

"Public charter schools are not funded by local property tax dollars," co-author Beth Lear added. "This fact is often overlooked by school choice opponents. Our findings should help inform the ongoing educational choice debate."

Perhaps Toledo City Council should read this report prior to making any decisions about the increased zoning requirements they are contemplating. Their proposed regulations claim to provide students with certain amenities like playgrounds and gyms, but in reality make it impossible for such schools to locate in unused existing buildings without extensive and costly renovations. Charter school advocates say this is just another way to inhibit the establishment of such schools, as the local zoning rules are more extensive than state requirements.

Some key points from the study:

The report's major findings include:

* Ohio's public charter schools do not, in any instance, receive funds raised by school district property taxes.

* Public charter schools operate with substantially less revenue per student in each of the "Big 8" city school systems. The largest difference is in Youngstown, where charter schools operate with an average of $7,126 less per student. The smallest difference is in Canton, where charter schools operate with an average of $1,809 less per student.

* Every "Big 8" city school system receives a net gain in revenue, on average, for each student choosing to attend a charter school. The largest gains are in Cincinnati, where each student departing for a charter school provides the district an increase of $4,030. The smallest gains are in Canton, where each student departing for a charter school provides the district an increase of $918.

* The return of public charter students to each "Big 8" city school district would result in a net per pupil loss of revenues for the district. As a result, these districts would face either lower per pupil spending levels or significant property tax increases to maintain current spending levels. The largest tax increase would be required in Youngstown (roughly $3,200 per $100,000 of home valuation). The smallest increase would be required in Akron (roughly $300 per $100,000 of home valuation).

("Big 8" refers to Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown city schools.)

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