Virtual School Meanderings

June 3, 2019

CRPE Briefs Distort The Debates About The Fiscal Impact Of California Charter Schools On School Districts

Another release on that National Education Policy Center review report.

May 30, 2019

Contact:
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Bruce D. Baker: (732) 932-7496, x8232, bruce.baker@gse.rutgers.edu

CRPE Briefs Distort the Debates about the Fiscal Impact of California Charter Schools on School Districts

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: Despite usefulness in pointing to some important issues that policymakers should consider, briefs’ analyses of those issues are superficial and misleading.

EAST LANSING, MI (May 30, 2019) – The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), based at the University of Washington, Bothell, recently released a series of three policy briefs on the financial impact of charter schools on nearby school districts in California. The briefs are intended to inform ongoing debates over charter school financing and expansion in the state of California.

After reviewing all three, Prof. Bruce D. Baker of Rutgers University found that they failed to accurately or fully apply the relevant research and data. The resulting briefs, while raising and attempting to address important issues, erroneously minimize the likely fiscal impacts of charter growth.

The first brief, Charter Schools and District Enrollment, attempts to minimize the import of the considerable role played by charters in districts’ enrollment loss, offering up the non sequitur that enrollment loss can arise from other sources as well. The brief’s assertion that charter enrollment growth bears little blame for district enrollment decline is not correct. It is, and has been for some time-whether in districts with declining, stable or growing overall student enrollments.

The second brief, Do Charter Schools Cause Fiscal Distress in School Districts, contends that serious fiscal problems in school districts are most often caused by financial mismanagement and have no relationship with charter enrollment share. The brief relies on overly simplistic comparisons of charter enrollments and county-assigned “fiscal distress” classifications to conclude that there is no association between charter enrollments and fiscal distress. The contention here is that there can’t be an illness if the patient isn’t dead. In order to rely on this problematic approach, the brief erroneously dismisses a significant, more rigorous, detailed, peer-reviewed and published body of research that illustrates the fiscal impact of charter schools on host districts, and how those fiscal impacts may lead to fiscal stress.

The third brief, Do the Costs of California Charter Schools Outweigh the Benefits, presents itself as an analysis of costs and benefits. But it merely touts the benefits of charter schooling as tangible while being entirely dismissive of numerous known and often measurable costs.

Taken together, the briefs are useful only in pointing to some important issues that policymakers should consider; its analyses of those issues are, however, generally superficial and misleading.

Find the review, by Bruce D. Baker, at:
http://greatlakescenter.org/

All three briefs were authored by Robin Lake, Ashley Jochim, Paul Hill, and Sivan Tuchman and published by CRPE. Find

Charter Schools and District Enrollment Loss at:
https://www.crpe.org/sites/default/files/charter_schools_and_district_enrollment_loss_0.pdf

Find Do Charter Schools Cause Fiscal Distress in School Districts at:
https://www.crpe.org/sites/default/files/do_charter_schools_cause_fiscal_distress.pdf

Find Do the Costs of California Charter Schools Outweigh the Benefits at:
https://www.crpe.org/sites/default/files/do_costs_of_ca_charter_schools_outweigh_benefits_0.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/

About The Great Lakes Center
The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform. Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org. Follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/greatlakescent. Find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GreatLakesCenter.

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/

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