Around the country, school districts are urging officials to crack down on charter school growth--and on existing charter schools--because, they assert, there isn't enough money in strapped state budgets to pay for this sector--and of course the districts must come first.
I'm seeing this in Ohio, in Utah and in Massachusetts and do not doubt that it's happening all over the place.
But of course it's completely cockeyed. If every public-school pupil in America attended a charter school, the total taxpayer cost would be 20-30% LESS than it is today. That's because charters are underfunded (compared with district schools) and thus represent an extraordinary bargain--even if their overall academic performance isn't much different from that of district schools. Think of it as the same amount of learning at three-quarters of the price.
What's really going on here are two bad things. First, as we've known for decades, school systems are great at expanding their budgets but absolutely dreadful at shrinking them. So they reach for every imaginable excuse and alternative--federal bailouts, state bailouts, county bailouts, the "Washington monument strategy" ("if you make us cut our budget we'll have to eliminate art and football and Advanced Placement"),...