Georgians head to the polls tomorrow to vote on Constitutional Amendment One, which would reinforce the state’s power to establish charter schools. According to a new study by Economics Professor Christine Ries, district public school systems will gain more money than they lose for each child that transfers from the district system to a public charter school. Ries based the study on the proposed funding arrangement for charters.
The analysis concludes that a majority of Georgia’s 180 school districts and 88% of public school students’ financial resources will increase, rather than decrease, when a start-up public charter school is authorized.
Using accounting information from the Georgia Department of Education, Ries estimated the revenue lost by each of Georgia’s 180 public school districts when a child leaves to enroll in a start-up public charter school. She then deducted the costs related to the instruction of that one child. In 117 of Georgia’s 180 school districts, the cost savings exceeded the projected loss in revenue. These districts account for 1.5 million out of Georgia’s nearly 1.6 million students. Thus, for 88 percent of the state’s children, the study makes the case that charter schools make sense financially.
Ries is a professor in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.
“This challenges the conventional wisdom and the argument put forward by opponents of Constitutional Amendment One that new charter public schools will drain resources from the traditional public schools.
“Within our traditional model of large school districts and uniform educational programs, the individual needs of a particular student had to rise to the level of ‘special needs’ to receive customized attention. Special programs were developed for these students and these involved individual tutors or ‘special education’ groups. Both options are expensive. Charter schools mean opportunity for choice for those who transfer out and increased financial resources for students who choose to remain in the regular district public schools.”
In Ries' analysis, gaining districts add an average of $1088 to the district budget for each child lost to charters. Losing districts lose an average per district of $800. But, the spread around these averages is meaningful. In the highest case, Atlanta Public Schools, the district gains $4321 for each child going to charters.
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