Report Advocating for More Charter School Facilities Funding Offers Scarce Rationale for Doing So

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Key NEPC Review Takeaway: Report’s flaws in comparison and reasoning hamper its usefulness in guiding Idaho charter school policy.

A recent report from Bellwether Education Partners contends that more funding should be given for charter school facilities. Focusing on a series of Idaho case studies, the report argues that charter schools are unfairly denied funding for the construction and renovation of their school buildings. These arguments, while focused on Idaho in this particular report, have been made with regard to charter school policies across the U.S.

Mark Weber, of Rutgers University and the New Jersey Policy Perspective, reviewed Fairness in Facilities: Why Idaho Public Charter Schools Need More Facilities Funding. He found several flaws that undermine its usefulness for policymakers looking to provide an adequate and equitable education.

The report makes comparisons of charter and public school facilities spending. But the examples it relies on are not “apples-to-apples” comparisons. It avoids discussing differences in student characteristics between the charter and public school district sectors, and it does not examine the issue of school governance and facilities ownership. This renders any statewide generalizations suspect, and it results in problematic recommendations.

The report bemoans the fact that charter school facilities are not part of local school districts’ bonds and tax levies, yet it does not acknowledge that charter facilities are often owned by private entities. Mandating that local taxpayers support charter facilities would, therefore, force them to pay for buildings they would not own.

Further, the report’s calculation of “costs-per-seat” ignores the reality that different students have different needs. For example, public district schools enroll proportionally more English language learners and students with disabilities, with one consequence being that they tend to have more support staff per pupil than charter schools. These additional staff require additional space to do their work, which may result in greater facilities expenses per pupil in public school districts than in charter schools.

Given these limitations, Dr. Weber concludes that the report provides little guidance for policymakers and other stakeholders at a time when Idaho is working to overhaul its school funding system.

Find the review, by Mark Weber, at:

Find Fairness in Facilities: Why Idaho Public Charter Schools Need More Facilities Funding, written by Kelly Robson, Juliet Squire, and Lynne Graziano, and published by Bellwether Education Partners, at:

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William J. Mathis

Mark Weber
Rutgers University
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