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Conservative Think Tank Says Study Bolsters Push To Expand Independent Charter Schools

Group Says Such Charter Schools Are More Cost Effective Than Traditional Public Schools

kittivanilli (CC-BY-NC-ND)

A new report from a Wisconsin-based conservative think tank argues independent charter schools might be more cost effective and efficient places to spend state education dollars than traditional public schools.

Based on this study, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty is making the case for expanding charter schools in the state.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty compared traditional public schools, charter schools run by school districts and independent charter schools. Charter schools receive public funding, but have more flexibility than traditional public schools.

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Study author William Flanders said the independent charters increased test scores despite getting about $2,200 fewer tax dollars per student than Milwaukee’s traditional public and district-run charter schools. He said that raises some questions.

“Should we be increasing the availability of these schools to Wisconsin children?” he said. “We could look at increasing the number of authorizers, we could look at increasing the number of schools authorizers are able to start.”

However, their student test scores tended to increase more per dollar received than district schools.

“The employees aren’t employees of the district. Those schools that have lower-per-pupil funding, but more independence, those schools seem to be the more efficient schools in our analysis. Those schools perform better per tax dollar spent,” he said.

But Milwaukee Public Schools administrators say the report counts funds for costs like retiree health care toward school-level funding. When that is taken out of the equation, district officials said its schools actually receive less public funding than charters.