Tuesday, December 16, 2008

even if their performance is the same...

From the AP in the C-J, an article on an IU study on the effectiveness of charter schools...

A state-funded study of Indiana's charter schools has found "no practical difference" between the alternative schools and traditional public schools.

The 180-page report is expected to stoke legislative debate at the 2009 General Assembly session, where one Democratic lawmaker plans to seek a moratorium on new charter schools and will try to restrict their funding.

"They are not making the significant difference that they were envisioned to do," said state Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, who serves on the House Education Committee. "The bottom line is that they're not producing."

Legislators agreed to spend $100,000 on the charter-school study last year after Smith led unsuccessful attempts to place a moratorium on new charter schools and restrict funding.

He said he plans to revive those efforts when the legislature reconvenes next month....

Why is Smith so passionate about this? (Is an ideological bias toward statism or a preference to serve the teachers' unions and public school admins who want as little competition as possible?) Even if their performance is equivalent, what's wrong with lower costs and increased choice?

The IU study found that racial minorities, primarily black students, account for 70 percent of enrollment in Indiana charter schools, which are clustered in urban areas. Students there pass achievement tests at rates within a few percentage points of statewide averages for public schools.

Indiana school districts spent $11,043 per pupil last year, the study found, while charter schools averaged $9,279.

OK, they're cheaper. Moreover, their concentration in the inner-city seems to make their performance and cost more admirable. Perhaps this is controlled for appropriately in the research, but the reporter's account does not encourage optimism here. In any case, spending $1800 less and getting similar results (and in the inner city vs. elsewhere) seems quite impressive.


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