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Charter Schools: Taxpayers Lose $620 Million on Failure

Last week we detailed the significant governance issues with charter schools. Today, we wanted to dive into the performance of charter schools. Too often in the minds of many policymakers, "charter" equals "better". After digging into the data, we aren't quite sure thats the case. 

In 1999 charter schools were given the OK to open in the St. Louis and Kansas City Public School Districts; since then Missouri tax payers have sunk more than $620 million into twenty-one charter schools that failed.

Compounding the problem, when a charter school fails, students are forced to enroll in another school and that school must then spend additional resources to get the students back up to grade-level.

Current data doesn’t look much better, as less than half of the thirty-eight charter schools currently operating in Missouri don't even meet minimum performance standards. 

Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for this kind of failure. 

The charter experiment in the state of Missouri has not been in the best interest of students, parents, communities, or taxpayers. Now lawmakers in Jefferson City are trying to expand these expensive failures to your community with HB 634.

If you believe this is wrong, please consider taking one of the following actions: 

1. Contact your local state legislators and urge them to oppose HB 634. You can access their contact information by clicking here and entering your address. 

2. E-mail your friends and family and let them know about HB 634 and what charter school expansion would mean. Click here for a sample letter that you are free to use as a template. 

3. Share information with your networks on social media. 

4. Write a letter to the editor in your local paper.

5. Urge your local school board to pass a resolution opposing charter school expansion.

6. Need a one-pager to share with your friends, family and colleagues? We've got you covered here

If you are just getting to know about charter schools, we have detailed some background information for you below or you can also check out our FAQ:

What are charter schools? Charter schools are classified as public schools and funded by Missouri taxpayers; however, they operate more like private schools. An unelected board governs charter schools and neither local communities nor locally elected school boards have power to oversee them or hold them accountable. 

Failure: Charter schools have been in existence since 1999 in the St. Louis and Kansas City School Districts. Since that time, 21 charter schools have failed. This failure has cost state and local taxpayers more than $620 million. Compounding the problem, when a charter school fails, students are forced to enroll in another school and that school must spend additional resources to get the students up to grade-level. 

Failure Continues: According to 2016 data, of the 39 charter school operating in the state of Missouri, 11 would be deemed provisionally accredited and six would be deemed unaccredited. Four did not receive a score because they are considered too new. In total, less than half (46%) of charter schools are meeting the minimum requirements to be accredited. 

Funding: Charter schools receive the equivalent of all federal, state, and local dollars that a school district would receive for every student that they enroll. This is accomplished by withholding the total amount per student from the local school district in which the charter school is operating. 

Draining funds: Local communities do not have a say in whether a charter school can open in their school district, therefore, taxpayers are not allowed to determine if the school is even needed in the community. As more charter schools open, expenditures increase across the community in the form of administrative and operating costs. This means less money is going into the classroom to serve students. 

Oversight: Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools are not regulated by the State Board of Education. In fact, the State Board of Education is not allowed to accredit or close failing charter schools. Instead, charter schools are regulated by their sponsoring entity. In Missouri, the entities that sponsor charter schools are typically colleges, universities and the Missouri Charter School Commission. 

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