How Much Charter Schools Cost

In a first-of-its-kind analysis, In the Public Interest has found that public school students in three California school districts are bearing the cost of the unchecked expansion of privately managed charter schools.

The report, Breaking Point: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts, calculates the fiscal impact of charter schools on Oakland Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, and San Jose’s East Side Union High School District.

  • Charter schools cost Oakland Unified $57.3 million per year. That’s $1,500 less in funding for each student that attends a neighborhood school.
  • The annual cost of charter schools to the San Diego Unified is $65.9 million.
  • In East Side Union, the net impact of charter schools amounts to a loss of $19.3 million per year.

The California Charter School Act doesn’t allow school boards to consider how a proposed charter school may impact a district’s educational programs or fiscal health when weighing new charter applications.

However, when a student leaves a neighborhood school for a charter school, all the funding for that student leaves with them, while all the costs do not. This leads to cuts in core services like counseling, libraries, and special education, and increased class sizes at neighborhood public schools.

In the Public Interest recommends that public officials at both the local and state levels should be empowered to take fiscal and educational impacts on neighborhood schools into account when deciding whether to authorize a new charter school.

Wondering what the cost is in your district?

In the Public Interest has designed a template to enable any California school district to calculate the net fiscal impact of charter schools in its community. Email info@inthepublicinterest.org to get a copy.

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