The Colorado Legislature recently passed a bill that would allow charter schools access to the same local funding that traditional public schools in the state have long enjoyed. This bipartisan measure comes on the heels of a new national study by the University of Arkansas that found charters across the country receiving, on average, $5,721 less than nearby district schools in per-pupil funding.
The primary revenue culprit for this disparity? Local funding.
In doing this analysis, my colleagues and I examined funding for students in charters and district schools in fifteen metropolitan areas during the 2013–14 school year. As shown in Figure 1 (drawn from the report), in all but one of those locations, we found that children enrolled in public charter schools receive substantially less funding than those in district-operated schools. Across the country, that averages out to a shortfall of about 29 percent.
Source: Wolf, Maloney, May, and DeAngelis (2017). “Charter School Funding: Inequity in the City.” School Choice Demonstration Project, Department of Education Reform, University of Arkansas.
Critics of such analyses sometimes claim that funding disparities are due to differences in types of students, with...