How Much Charters Schools *Really* Cost

Even “good” charters come at a cost to our public education system.

Last week, In the Public Interest, a research and policy center promoting the democratic control of public goods and services, released a report that measures how much charter schools are costing three California school districts. That might sound regional and hyper specific, but it’s a big deal. Here’s why: it’s the first to directly measure the cost for a district when a student transfers to a privately managed charter school. Districts nationwide can now make similar measurements using our model, potentially shifting the discourse about charter schools.

We can’t afford the cost of charters…

Here’s some initial reporting about it in Oakland.

In a first-of-its-kind analysis, In the Public Interest has found that public school students in three California school districts are bearing the cost of the unchecked expansion of privately managed charter schools.

Charter schools cost Oakland Unified $57.3 million per year. That’s $1,500 less in funding for each student that attends a neighborhood school. For San Diego Unified, the annual cost of charter schools is $65.9 million. In East Side Union, the net impact of charter schools amounts to a loss of $19.3 million per year.

Here’s how it works. When a student leaves a neighborhood school for a charter school, all the funding for that student leaves with them but all the costs do not. This leads to cuts in core services like counseling, libraries, and special education, and increased class sizes at neighborhood public schools.


For more information, or to get involved in protecting our public education system, go to the HowMuchChartersCost.Org and follow the #HowMuchChartersCost hashtag on Twitter. You can also download the full report here or this research brief showing charter impacts in various districts across the nation.

We encourage families concerned about this to write their elected leaders and demand local control of charter schools.

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