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This Just In: PA Charter Schools Spend MUCH More on Administrative Overhead

August 19, 2016

After months of FOiA requests, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) finally got some financial information on charter schools that enabled their staff to analyze charter spending vs. public school spending… and the results were astonishing. As Caitlin McCabe reported yesterday in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Charter-school administrative expenditures are nearly double those of conventional public schools, and their highest-ranking officials are paid far more.

They spend less on instruction than school districts, but more on support services and facilities.

And while charter-school enrollment has jumped significantly over time, payments to the schools are far outpacing their actual rates of growth in admission.

The charter school advocate’s response was both predictable and laughable:

Charter-school advocates have countered that charters provide more choices for families, and can increase learning opportunities and encourage innovation.

“Charter schools are already subject to the same accountability and transparency laws as district schools,” the (Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools) said in a statement. It said that despite some opposition from the school boards association, the legislature has been working to pass legislation that would increase charter school accountability.

The “choice” and “innovation” arguments are based on the false assumption that market forces will yield higher quality and more innovations when all evidence indicates that the driving force behind for-profit charters is, well, profit for shareholders. The “transparency” claim is completely bogus given the efforts PSBA had to make to get clear and concise financial information from charters, 47% of whom did not reply until PSBA filed an appeal with the Office of Open Records and 11% of whom never replied. And that “opposition from school boards association” is based on the fact that the PA legislature is attempting to bundle all education issues into one comprehensive bill. Here’s a statement from the PSBA on the legislation:

 House Bill 530 contains some good provisions, however it also contains provisions that are questionable. Several organizations have reviewed the legislation and we feel it is important to provide a comprehensive review of the entire bill. The sheer size of the measure that attempts to obtain a grand compromise perhaps is a reason for why confusion will continue to arise. This issue would be far better if it could be debated and finalized issue by issue.

As noted in my previous post, maybe it’s time for the Justice Department to intervene and insist that charters conduct themselves in accordance with the same regulations as public schools… but in PA the AG’s office has been as opaque and dysfunctional as the charter schools. A better hope would be for voters to realize where their tax dollars are going and stop the trickle up economics.

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