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Charter Schools' Funding Lags, Study Finds

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Charter school students receive about $4,000 less in per-pupil funding than their regular public school peers according to an analysis of five regions across the U.S., a new report has found.

The report, conducted by the University of Arkansas and funded by the Walton Family Foundation, compared per-pupil funding rates between charter and regular public schools in Denver, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Newark, and the District of Columbia from 2007-2011.

The Walton Family Foundation has been a major backer of school-choice, including charters and private school vouchers. (The Walton Family Foundation also supports coverage of parent empowerment issues at Education Week.)

Over the past four years, the funding gap between the two types of schools narrowed in the District of Columbia and Newark but increased in Denver, Los Angeles, and Milwaukee.

As of 2011, the amount of per-pupil funding for charter schools in the five regions are as follows:

Denver—$11,139; $2,684 less than regular public schools in the area
Los Angeles—$8,780; $4,666 less than regular public schools in the area
Milwaukee—$10,298; $4,720 less than regular public schools in the area
Newark—$15,973; $10,214 less than regular public schools in the area
District of Columbia—$16,361; $12,784 less than regular public schools in the area

The research evaluates federal, state, local, and non-public revenue for charter schools, and is a precursor to a larger study that will analyze funding trends for charter schools in 30 states and the District of Columbia, to be released in the spring of 2014.

The study produced similar findings to an analysis published by Ball State University in 2010 which analyzed charter school funding rates in 24 states and the District of Columbia and found that charter school students received, on average, 19.2 percent (or $2,247) less per-pupil funding than students in regular public schools. Many of the same researchers that conducted the Ball State University study participated in the University of Arkansas research.

The research will appear in the September issue of The Journal of School Choice.

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