Thursday, May 1, 2014

Report: NC charter schools don't get fair share

North Carolina's charter schools averaged $1,722 per pupil less than the state's traditional public schools in 2011,  according to a new report from the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform.

"Charter School Funding:  Inequity Expands" follows up on similar national studies done by other groups, comparing funding in 2003 and 2007.  The latest study is part of the university's School Choice Demonstration Project and is funded by the Walton Family Foundation.

"Since public charter schools are becoming increasingly politically popular and therefore common in the U.S., we might expect that they would be funded at levels comparable to traditional public schools. After all, they are public schools, too,"  the authors write.  "We would be mistaken."

The researchers found a national gap of 28.4 percent,  with charters averaging $3,814 less per pupil from combined state,  local,  federal and private money.  In North Carolina the gap was 17.2 percent,  or $8,277 per charter student compared with $9,999 per district student.

As charter advocate Larry Bumgarner and I have been discussing in recent comments,  per-pupil funding is a complex and confusing system.  The university's report on North Carolina provides a detailed explanation of state funding formulas. "In practice charter school State revenues are nearing parity with district per pupil State revenues, which is significant,"  the report notes.

The N.C. breakdown cites causes of the funding gap, including the absence of local money for charter school buildings and a lower level of federal funding for charters.  (Note that this study landed during the recession,  when federal stimulus money was coming in to local districts.  It also came before North Carolina's charter school expansion,  which might or might not affect per-pupil spending.)

The study does a breakout on Wake County charters and district schools,  but there's nothing on Mecklenburg,  which has the largest charter school enrollment.  I was interested to see that statewide,  charter schools served a slightly higher percentage of low-income and special-education students than district schools.  As the report notes,  that can vary widely by school.

The report gives North and South Carolina D grades for charter/district discrepancies.  Tennessee,  where charter schools averaged $15 per pupil more than district schools,  got the only A.

Also on charters and district schools:  I'm moving toward getting payroll data from area charters,  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and nearby districts.  Expect more on that after the Observer/PNC forum on teacher compensation,  which takes place Monday evening.  Seats are still available;  click here for details and to reserve a seat.


Anonymous said...

This must be a hard pill for you to swallow in your quest to disparage charter schools.

Anonymous said...

The Walton Foundation. As a parent of a part-time Wal-Mart employee whose seen the vivid reminders of their corporate off the clock techniques, discrimination of all types, and shoddy treatment of personnel, maybe some of that political cash could go to the employees who'll never ever get full time employment or benefits. Alright Larry, your turn.

Larry said...

Oh no Ann, have I fallen so much that I am now one of your sources? :)

Thanks for this report, I hope I can close CMS down completely, oh wait I should keep that under wraps for a while.

So just forget the last sentence I wrote above.

Instead only know that I am for what works for kids, and I too have seen the number of African American and other Minorities which populate these new Charters. In fact I helped get some of them started.

So if CMS will just now step up and we all work on this together, we can do noting but win for these kids.

Thanks again and now back to the battle ground.

Anonymous said...

Let Charters do lunch and transportation and such and take students from all walks of life and demographics and they would actually need the extra money. Since they hand pick their clientele, it does not take as much to educate the haves as it does to educate the have nots.

Larry said...

7:39 I agree with you Walmart, is too big, just like CMS.

Thanks for the help.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for CHOICE, hope that our NC children will have public school choices soon.

Shamash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shamash said...

" I was interested to see that statewide, charter schools served a slightly higher percentage of low-income and special-education students than district schools."


That DOES run against the politically correct narrative, but it is no surprise to many of us.

There is a myth out there that Charter schools were created as havens for middle-class, white, "elitists".

I don't see how people could miss this when KIPP is probably one of the better known Charter schools.

Of course, a lot of these schools serving the "disadvantaged" are the first in the news when they have problems, so they DO get media coverage.

The main difference I see, though, is that failing "regular" public schools just keep taking in money (and running) while the failing Charter schools are closed.

Wiley Coyote said...

Wal Mart is not obligated to pay what "you think" they should pay or provide benefits beyond what they decide to offer.

Free market. Don't like the benefits or lack thereof, seeking employment elsewhere would be a good start.

Whether the Walton Foundation provided money to the university for charter funding research is a moot point.

Other studies have concluded the same thing.

Wiley Coyote said...


Wal Mart is big but efficient.

You can thank them for food and other prices being what they are today because without them, prices would be much higher across the country.

CMS is big but NOT efficient.

I've said many times that if the largest retailer in the world can operate out of a small town with cows in pastures within eyesight of their headquarters, CMS should be able to run their operation from one central location.

But CMS can't quite figure out how to do that.

Shamash said...

"Since they hand pick their clientele, it does not take as much to educate the haves as it does to educate the have nots."

Oh, yes, the Charter schools are only for the "elite"...myth busted.

I guess this means you support giving MORE money to the Charter schools which serve "low-income and special-education students" (which Charters serve at a higher percentage than district schools according to this article).

Or is that a different issue with you?

Is it the "pick and choose" part you oppose so much?

(Since Charters DO serve the "disadvantaged"...)

Anonymous said...

I can't speak to the statewide picture, but in the greater Charlotte area, charters and district schools have "clientele" that is shaped by location. Those in the suburbs tend to have low poverty levels and majority white enrollment; those in Charlotte's urban band tend to be the opposite. That's true regardless of who's running them.

I've seen some very low poverty levels at suburban charters -- lower than you'd find at any CMS school -- but Chris Terrill at Pine Lake Prep told me charters that don't participate in federal lunch program aren't particularly focused on collecting those forms. So he thinks FRL numbers at some charters understate low-income enrollment.

Shamash said...


It DOES make sense that schools which don't serve lunches (or aren't in the federal FRL program) wouldn't care much about FRL paperwork.

Also, there would be less of an "incentive" for parents to overstate their "need" if there isn't an actual plate of carrots attached to filling out the form.

Anonymous said...

I'll consider charter school populations more like traditional public schools' when they take students throughout the school year. Traditional public schools take all students ALL year long.

Wiley Coyote said...

...Nearly 40 percent of charters nationwide do not participate in the federal subsidized lunch program, often because they don't have space for a kitchen or don't want to deal with the paperwork, according to the pro-charter Center for Education Reform.

Anonymous said...

But would a charter school take a known problem student with an extended record who was hit during an emergency by the teacher to maintain order?

Would the charter schools fire/hire this teacher despite the circumstances?

Would the charter schools have a resource officer?

A school nurse?

Teacher/Custodian/building maintenance as job description?

NCAE membership discount and legal assistance for unknown termination for teachers?

Sex Education?

Inquiring minds want to know, Larry?

Larry said...

8:37 So even after reading this story, you still post what you did, and do not understand the inaccuracy of your statement.

That just goes to show is you say it enough it become fact in people's minds.

Ann: That is true in CMS, most of the majority white schools are also located in the suburban areas. But everyone will be happy once they see the many new Charters coming in the most educational needy urban areas of Charlotte.

12:03 Unlike CMS, Charter Schools only get to keep the money the State paid them, only if the Student has completed the full year. Not so with CMS. They get to keep the money from the State even if the Student drops out the last day of school.

And keep in mind the waiting list, folks on that have already made other arrangements, plus if you visit a Charter School you will see the class team spirit, and a new person may interrupt the flow of study which is important.

Charters are a different kind of school, that some folks will never appreciate and from the comments we see on here, CMS is a great resource for those folks.

Larry said...

4:45 It just hit me that you want me to do all your research.

I do not get paid for any volunteer work I do for CMS or the Charter Schools.

I am just a guy who have volunteered for years and have seen be best and worst of CMS and Charter Schools.

So if you are angry with me, so be it, I did not create the CMS mess. I only try to pull a few kids out of it, so they have a future.

So all the best in your research on Charter Schools.

Shamash said...

Anon 4:45

CMS will keep a kid who has been suspended 13 times just to see if he will "eventually" behave.

No matter how many other kids or teachers he disrupts.

I guess some people see that as a "good" thing.

For the rest, there are Charters.

Anonymous said...

Charter schools work well because only parents that actually care send their children there. Income is not a factor when you are an involved parent. Once all schools become charters, they will become like the public schools. Why? Because we are still not addressing the social ills of children who have parents that just don't care.

Wiley Coyote said...

Why? Because we are still not addressing the social ills of children who have parents that just don't care.

We, who and what do you believe "we" should do for parents who should have never had kids in the first place if they don't care?

Wiley Coyote said...

Why? Because we are still not addressing the social ills of children who have parents that just don't care.

We, who and what do you believe "we" should do for parents who should have never had kids in the first place if they don't care?

Anonymous said...

They have students with special needs in the charter schools but a local public school usually provides the services and paper work.

Anonymous said...

Wal Mart is very often given large tax breaks that local venders are not given. Wal Mart employees are also subsidized by welfare in many states. We pay for their low wages. I prefer Costco anyway.

Anonymous said...

I am all for whatever but only 1/4 charters are successful. Looking at the data, if demographics are the same, charters performance is about the same. I am all for trying different things but why all the craze? If people want to do it, let them. If people want public schools, go.. The product seems to be the same.

Anonymous said...

Your right... Skin in the game.

Anonymous said...

Did y'all read the CMS teacher that got fired for slapping a little punk for not behaving during a bomb threat? Fired!!! After 20 years of service. NC is a BS state. Teachers can't win hear. That teacher had career statues and still was fired. Mmmmmm

Shamash said...

"Once all schools become charters, they will become like the public schools. "

Maybe someone will build "reform" Charter schools for those kids and parents who do not care.

Shamash said...

Anon 7:42pm.

"The product seems to be the same. "

Except one costs less than the other.

So, considering this, which is the better choice?

I like Costco, too. I've been a member for many years.

But if I find the same product cheaper at the Walmart (or the Harris Teeter, for that matter)near my home, guess where I buy it?

Shamash said...

" Looking at the data, if demographics are the same, charters performance is about the same. "

That's a good point.

I've often said that it is the students and parents who make the difference, NOT the schools and administrators.

Teachers, of course, get some credit, but not all, and shouldn't be evaluated on the "performance" of their students because of all the externalities (like parents and just "caring" about school).

Move all the students and parents from one school to another (or switch "staff") and results won't change much.

A few teachers and proper facilities (like science labs) might make a difference at a certain level, but that's probably about it.

Larry said...

Sadly, this article never got face time on the site, nor in the Charlotte Observer.

I guess the Duke protests, and obamacare sign up thing was just more important, and no space for a story like this one, finally showing what Charter School face.

Oh and I even called Rick Thames and asked him to see if he could find some space for the story on both the site and in the Observer.

He said he would, but sadly, I guess he was not able to find the space.

Anonymous said...

My children are doing fantastic in their traditional public schools, the education my children have received has been first class. As a parent, I have noticed the relationship between succesful students and those that are average or who struggling, PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT! The reality is this, there is no true substitute for a caring, educated and involved parent. Also, there is a direct relationship between the loss of family values in this country and no one wants to admit it or do antying about it, they just want to blame someone else.

Anonymous said...

Harris does, Mcory and Tillis want to blame teachers.. Its the easy way out..

Anonymous said...

A lot of the cost is big yellow busses, special education, and buildings.

Anonymous said...

I believe the one writer was referring to the "successsful" charters schools when referring to how those charters use certain methods to eliminate poor and minority children from attending. Location of the school plays a big factor and then not providing transportation, very effective.

Do you remember the old saying, "seeing is believing"?

Go to youtube and type in Cabarrus Charter Academy, there is a video posted by a parent , Carter's 2nd grade Christmas performance. Then type in langtree Charter Academy, there are 6 videos, each a full class (approx 23 students), each class is singing the "long legged Sailor'. What did you notice about each of these schools? Niether of thse schools has reported their student body population diversity since they just opened last fall.

If you need more evidence, go to and look up the following schools, and you will see the numbers for yourself. lake Norman Charter, PineLake Prep, Union Academy, Davidson Community School.

for comparison, look at Carolina International School and Queen's grant, both are diverse charter school, about 67% of the kids are white, but neither appear to be especially good with regards to academics. Both are far below the state average in math and langauge arts.
The fact is, the most succesful charters in this region share one common thread, they serve a predominately white student body. Clearly, there are many charter schools that serve a predominately black student body and most of those schools are at the bottom with regards to academic performance. Many end up being closed.

Shamash said...

Anon 4:51pm.

And again, I'll say that you get similar results in traditional public schools with the same demographics (but apparently with a lower price tag).

(I'll check out the list you gave me, but I know it's easy to find a few examples of success or failure out of them all.)

I don't believe it's the schools (especially "type" of public school) which matter the most in education anyway.

Or even the amount of money spent on "education".

It's the kids and parents, primarily, with teachers being third.

Location of schools play an important factor in the success of traditional public schools as well. That's why some people choose certain neighborhoods.

It's why we chose to buy a place in Ballantyne.

You can look up Ardrey Kell and other Ballantyne-area schools and see this as well.

So what's the big deal if Charters do the same?

They have to put their schools SOMEWHERE.

As far as closing schools, I think that might not be such a bad idea for a failing traditional school, too.

After all, what's good for the goose is supposed to be good for the gander.

If they can close bad Charter schools for black kids, then what does that say about NOT closing the bad traditional schools for black kids?

Why do they get a pass?

Isn't a bad school STILL a bad school?

Larry said...

4:27 Oh you must think Buses, Special Ed and Buildings are in the calculations between Charters getting about 2 thousand per student less than CMS students for example.

I often wonder why folks do not take some time to know what is being reported.

The buses are supplied by the State in a different budget. Special Ed gets Federal funding and of course we all know those billions in bonds outstanding to cover the buildings.

Charter schools gets only Federal help for Special Ed and they have to provide their own buses if they have them. And of course we all know they have to build their own buildings.

So I hope this helps your understanding of just what you are seeing as a per pupil amount just to have a child in a seat, in either CMS etc. or a Charter Schools.

As you can see Charter Schools are a great savings to tax payers and a great resource for education.

Shamash said...

Anon 4:51 pm.

OK, I'm looking at the schools in greatschools. First I checked Lake Norman Charter and Lake Norman Elementary (public).

Lake Norman Charter is SLIGHTLY MORE diverse with only 79% white vs. 82% white for the public school.

The only grade these schools have in common is fifth grade and the test scores are similar.

Not quite sure what dots you want me to connect here.

Could you be more specific about what I'm supposed to be seeing?

Anonymous said...

In response to Wiley and Shamash about my comment of not addressing the social ills of children who have parents that just don't care.\

Price tag may be cheaper at first but when you have to include social workers, and behavioral specialists, and extra teachers to contain them it won't be cheaper. And those who are inadequate parents seem to have the most children. Free deliveries should include free parenting classes. Pay now or pay later.

Shamash said...

Anon 10:19am.

"Pay now or pay later."

I don't think this is an either/or proposition.

Most likely we will end up paying now AND paying later.

I'd like to see schools get out of social services, though and put that in a separate budget.

Anonymous said...

The federal government has never fully funded SPED services. States have to pay to comply with the law. Another underfunded federal mandate.

Anonymous said...

I love my kids school. I don't like how many of the teachers are talking about leaving.

Dennis said...

So an anonymous commenter thinks charter schools "hand pick their clientele". Proof again that the masses have little to no idea how charter schools work. Parents pick the charter school for their children, not the other way around. But now that readers have seen that comment in print, even more will believe that lie.

Anonymous said...

I didn't have a problem with charter schools when the state capped them at 100.

But then the state legislature removed the cap, Senate Bill 337 passed (removing certification requirements, removing background checks), allowing rent of vacant public buildings for one dollar per year, the attempt to form their own governing board with hand-picked appointees, attempting to remove transparency by not allow salaries to be public record, etc... I'm sure I'm forgetting something.

In effect, creating a predatory breeding ground and the potential for fly-by-night charter operators. Folks, when you see hedge fund managers interested in charter schools, there's your red flag. Remember, there is no such thing as a non-profit charter school. There are eleven charter schools set to open in the Charlotte area next year alone.

Larry said...

9:13 Strange you only have problems with Charter Schools.

Pray tell us of your feelings for CMS?

And note I did not challenge what you said about Charter Schools.

You apparently have no idea, or do not care, as to why Charters are not like CMS and the like. Or why they have different rules for operation.

And it seems you have not even bothered to read the comments, and story above, which has provided so much background to the whole situation.

Finally and have you heard of a bad CMS school closing and the observer doing several stories on it?

So rest better knowing that Charters have more oversight, media attention, and public scrutiny than you might have dreamed they could have.

Anonymous said...

Here, Larry.