News Release: IO’s Taxpayer Rip-Off of the Week – Ohio Charter Schools – More Expensive; Less Effective

Columbus – After a several month hiatus, progressive think tank Innovation Ohio today resumes its coveted “Taxpayer Rip-Off Of The Week” award. The Award is presented to legislators, policies or practices that provide especially outrageous examples of taxpayer abuse.

Getting 2013 off to a rousing start is this week’s winner: Ohio Charter Schools.

According to a recent analysis by the Kasich Administration’s own Department of Education, traditional public schools spend an average of $10,111 per pupil, while brick-and-mortar Charters spend an average of $10,165. In other words, (non-E-school) Charters cost $54 more per pupil than traditional schools. At the same time —according to the state’s “Performance Index Score”— Charters, on average, rank in the bottom 8% of all public schools in student performance.

The irony is obvious. When Charter schools first burst on the scene in Ohio a decade and a half ago, advocates promised they would deliver a better education at a lower cost. Now, 15 years and nearly $6 billion in taxpayer money later, the exact opposite is true: Charters are delivering a worse education at a higher cost.

Why Charters spend more per pupil is a mystery. They pay teachers about 40% less than traditional schools, they have no busing costs to contend with, and they’re exempt from roughly 200 different state regulations that traditional schools must pay to comply with.

Said IO President Janetta King:

“While there are certainly some outstanding Charter schools in Ohio, they are few and far between. Out of the over 300 charters in this state, fewer than two dozen rate in the top half of all public schools on the Performance Index Score.

“But more to the point, if the expenses of charters are less than those of traditional schools, why are taxpayers being asked to provide charters with twice as much state funding per pupil? If overall charter school student performance is worse, why isn’t the Kasich Administration loudly pushing for more charter ‘accountability’?

“And why in the world would the Administration and its General Assembly allies punish public schools by cutting their funding – while they reward Charters by letting them collect even more public money? This year, for the first time, in addition to their state funding, Cleveland charter schools will be able to siphon away a portion of the revenue raised through local property tax levies. And the governor and several top legislators say they’d like to replicate the Cleveland plan in other school districts across the state.

“Taxpayers might well wonder whether the millions of dollars in campaign contributions provided by for-profit Charter school operators has something to do with it. In the meantime, IO is delighted to present Ohio’s Charter Schools with 2013’s first Taxpayer Rip-off Award.”

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