New study: Urban charter schools draw nearly a third of their students from private schools

A new study released today by the Cato Institute Center for Educational Freedom examines a question that hasn’t garnered any attention in the charter school debate here in Georgia: Where do public charter schools get their students, from traditional public schools or private schools?

I hope to talk today to the economist who authored the Cato study, Richard Buddin with the RAND Corporation, but here is the essence of his surprising findings: Despite their intention to target poor and under-served students, charters schools draw nearly a third of their elementary school enrollments from students who would have attended private, not public schools. This exodus from private schools to public charter schools costs taxpayers $1.8 billion a year, according to the study.

The study found:

Charters serving primary students in highly urban districts take almost one third of their students from private schools, on average. Urban charters draw nearly one quarter of their middle school students and over 15 percent of their high school students from the private sector. Even in non-urban districts, charters pull between 7 and 11 percent of all their students from private schools.

“On average, charter schools may marginally improve the public education system, but in the process they are wreaking havoc on private education. Charter schools take a significant portion of their students from private schools, causing a drop in private enrollment, driving some schools entirely out of business, and thereby raising public costs while potentially diminishing competition and diversity in our education system overall. I call this mix of intended and unintended consequences the ‘Charter School Paradox,’” said Cato policy analyst and project supervisor Adam B. Schaeffer in an email.

In a companion analysis released with the study, Schaeffer explores how Buddin’s findings influence what Cato considers the critical element to improving education: Limiting government so the free market can work. The libertarian Cato Institute advocates for an independent system of schools competing for students.

Schaeffer writes:

1) What is the impact on overall competition and achievement if charter schools are driving private schools out of business?

• Although charter schools increase competition within the government school system, it seems likely that they decrease competition from the private sector in some areas. The private market is in turn vital for innovation and as competition for the government sector. More research needs to be conducted to determine whether or not there is a net increase in competition and achievement when considering these substantial, if unintended, consequences of charter schools for the private education market.

2) What is the true cost of expanding public charter schools when the formerly private school students are properly counted as a new expenditure?

• Based on Buddin’s numbers, the direct public cost of charter students who migrated from private schools is about $1.8 billion a year. Since the most recent data available for the analysis are from 2008, that figure is likely much higher today.

• Moreover, state governments typically spend more per charter school student than they do for students in regular schools, adding to the total cost at the state level. Local governments, however, usually spend far less or nothing at all on charter school students. The cost, in other words, is borne by state governments and the total costs or savings across both levels requires a detailed state-by-state analysis.

3) Is there any way to mitigate these negative, unintended consequences of charter school reform?

• Thankfully, yes; by enacting good private school choice reform, such as education tax credit programs. This will prevent the erosion of private educational options while driving greater competition across the board.

4) Is there any way to avoid the Charter School Paradox without private choice reform?

• Unfortunately, that seems unlikely. If the heavy burden of government school taxes continues to weigh down families struggling to pay out of pocket for private education, then charter schools will continue to cannibalize the private sector, increase public costs, and decrease options and competition. Communities must open up all educational options to families if there is to be real and sustainable improvement in education overall.

Anecdote and conjecture about the impact of charter schools now has rigorous empirical support; public charter schools are seriously damaging the private education market, adding to the taxpayer burden, and undermining private options for families and healthy competition in the education sector.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

170 comments Add your comment


August 28th, 2012
12:22 am

Great! the Parents most likely to afford Private School, are Now getting it for FREE!
This is what I would call ” The GOLDEN WELFARE PLAN”.

The Lucky Gene Pool Strikes, Again! All they Do, is just show UP and Smile!


August 28th, 2012
2:17 am

Enter your comments here


August 28th, 2012
4:52 am

Great. My daughter spent her first eight grades in private school. We did this so we could better control her environment and were willing to sacrifice our income to get her the kind of personalized attention it takes to prepare her academically. We did not ask the government to help us in any way and we have dutifully paid all of our taxes along the way. Now that she is prepared she applies for and is accepted into a school with a concentration on math and science and she excels. Sounds great on paper.

For having the willingness to forego new cars or fancy vacations we have been labeled elitists. We have been accused of providing our children a false homogeneous environment where she was unprepared for the so called “real world”. Never mind that her schools were both more ethnically and culturally diverse than the schools she would have been forced to attend. Nope. Not good enough for some people.

Now that her hard work and our sacrifice have prepared her to take on a challenging math and science curriculum, she attends a magnet public school. How dare we do this and take away a slot some other kid could have used. How dare we think she has just as much right to attend as some other kid.

Over the years I have found myself caught up in traffic around the schools my kids would have attended. As I sit in my car I observe the Moms and Dads dropping their precious snowflakes off from their shiny new cars. I think to myself, maybe I could sacrifice my kids future so I could also enjoy a nice Lexus or BMW. Now that she attends this public school you would think I am able to do that, wouldn’t you? No. The reality is that we spend about the same amount on tutoring and saving for college.

I question a lot of your priorities in life. I have watched our single mom Admin Assistant sacrifice a huge chunk of her income in order to put her kid through the same schools our kids attend.

Bernie, you come across as a smug jerk. How dare you suggest that my child is in any way favored by this system. If anything, my child was a victim of this system. We were willing to give up much to prevent her from being chewed up by a dangerously flawed system, a system held at the mercy of teachers unions and rampant political correctness.

Mabe Mr. Bernie is right. Maybe my kids did win by being born to my wife and me. We were willing to give up much to give them an opportunity to grow beyond what was probable in our public schools. Maybe you are content to watch your child in that environment. So as you sit back in the regal splendor of your leather clad Lexus watching Bernie Jr. Head into schools that you know are substandard, you can lauugh at us chumps. Maybe Bernie Jr. Will beat the odds. We weren’t willing to take that chance. You get one shot at raising your child. We are giving it our best shot.


August 28th, 2012
6:05 am

@ Reverie. Thank you, thank you THANK YOU!!!!! We are in much the same situation. We chose to homeschool and now sent one to private school. Not an elite, pretentious school. Just an reasonably priced school with a small but very diverse student body. I would consider a magnet high school or any good charter school that was offered. Unfortunately there are no good charters in my area. Is that not my right? I’m sorry, I thought I paid property taxes so my kids could go to the public school. I guess I just pay them so everyone else can.

I too am sick of Bernie’s comments and attitudes. Bernie just thinks the outcome should be equal for everyone despite the amount of time or effort one puts in to his or her life. I am a state social worker and my husband is a landscape contractor. We are anything but wealthy. My husband wears a suit only to funerals and I only wear decent clothes when I have to go to court for work. We buy clothes at Target, food at Aldi and drive totally paid off 10 yr old cars. Sound elite? Still we have saved for retirement and sacrificed time and money for our kids’ education because we didn’t trust that they would be “fine” in public school. How incredibly nice it would be to have a safe, academically challenging school of my child to attend. I might get a break from working AND homeschooling. I might get a new car. I, too have watched my friends and others take their kids to school in fancy cars or put them on the bus in the morning and go about their day. I wonder what it would be like to just trust the system and hope it all works out okay. Sorry, I’ve seen too much. I’m not willing to chance it but somehow that makes me the bad guy.


August 28th, 2012
6:07 am

There is no union here in ga to speak of. I wonder how your close mindedness has affected your child more than the lack of public school. Choice is a parental right but thr article is about cherrypicking kids who have choice and losing that opportunity for kids who dont. Not everyone drives a lexus and some people dont have the luxury for saving for college on their psy chech to paycheck life. Free your mind and the rest will follow….to paraphrase a song

mountain man

August 28th, 2012
6:17 am

“This exodus from private schools to public charter schools costs taxpayers $1.8 billion a year, according to the study.”

You know, when I had trouble with the Cherokee County School system and they would not listen to me or budge one inch,I was threatening to home school my child. They acted like they didn’t care, were gad even. I thought maybe that was because then there would be one less student for them to teach and they still got to keep my tax money. Now I am sure of it.

Instead of looking at it like it is “costing” the system money (the taxes have already been paid to educate these children, they have just been siphoned off to some other administrative bloat), why don’t they look at it as attracting back students to the public education system that had fled to private schools because the pbulc schools were so bad.

mountain man

August 28th, 2012
6:23 am

“What is the true cost of expanding public charter schools when the formerly private school students are properly counted as a new expenditure?”

Why would it be counted “properly” as a new expenditure? What if a private school parent just suffered a pay decrease and could not afford private school any more? No charters involved. Would you then count their children as “extra new expenditures”? Their parents paid just as much taxes as you did. They have been subsidizing YOUR child’s education. You use their money to pay the $30,000 a year for that SPED student.

mountain man

August 28th, 2012
6:43 am

You anti-charter people seem to talk out of both sides of your mouth. First you say that charter schools (on average) are no better that rugular public schools. Now you are saying that private school parents are taking their kids out of private schools and putting them in charter schools. What gives? Either you think private school parents are just DUMB (unlikely), or at least SOME charter schools are better that regular schools, or maybe it is that charter sschools are addressing some issues that regular schools don’t have the courage to address (discipline, maybe?).


August 28th, 2012
6:44 am

I doubt if too many sentient folks will be surprised that, on a large scale, charters draw large numbers of their kids from private schools. I should not have been surprised that this would then lead for a call to “protect” private schools by offering public-paid incentives to “keep the privates running.”

Folks, it isn’t the business of government to support private schools, through either vouchers or tuition credits. Its first obligation is to properly fund regular education facilities. In Georgia, that has yet to happen, and it can be blamed/attributed almost completely to our legislators. Anything that interferes with that support should result in the legislators being held personally accountable!

Eddie Hall

August 28th, 2012
6:53 am

Why do you think the same people who have been pushing for tax funded vouchers are the same ones pushing the charter school issue? They want your money! ( and mine!) The people with bad systems hold the power to fix them. It won’t be easy, but what is? The situation for some systems is bad,but this is not the answer.

Erica Long

August 28th, 2012
6:53 am

Why, exactly, are we supposed to be up in arms here? Those private school children are children too – children who also have the right to attend their neighborhood public schools. Why is it a problem that their parents exercised a choice to send them private (while still paying taxes to help fund the public schools, by the way) then exercised another choice to send them to a public charter school? Why all this hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth around families having and exercising options?

CharterStarter, Too

August 28th, 2012
6:58 am

Let’s think through this…

1. Individuals who choose to send their students to a private school for many reasons, but we have to assume that some (I’d say many) send their children because their public school option is unacceptable.

2. Parents are tax payers. We are supposed to have a public school system paid for by tax funds that serves their children. It is a sad state of affairs when parents have to pay twice to get a decent education for their child.

3. I am quite certain you are going to try to intimate that charters have 1/3 “rich” kids. As you all know from published data, charters serve about 50% FRL students…so already this theory is debunked (unless those are kids who were on scholarship with private schools returning back to the public system).

4. We have public schools in very affluent neighborhoods that are packed. We track socioeconomic status for at risk students through FRL eligibility….we do not track socioeconomic status in our public schools for “rich” kids or even middle class kids. So please do not try to make an argument that cannot be substantiated.

5. I am certain that there are some private schools losing students, and thus sustainability comes in question for them. Charters and traditional schools alike will face this same issue if they don’t perform to the parents’ satisfaction. And as Mary Elizabeth has suggested so many times, they could seek outside grants and corporate funding to support them. Many of the private schools have endowments and other types of contributions that help support them. I am doubtful there are too many public schools with endowments…

Just the Facts

August 28th, 2012
6:58 am

I’m still trying to understand the math behind the “third of the students.” How is this number being calculated?

Eddie Hall

August 28th, 2012
7:01 am

Mountain man, the people who leave the privates are just like Reverie who posted above. They struggle to pay the tuition for private school and if the opportunity presents itself for the taxpayer to foot the bill, then why not take advantage?
Cat lady is right, we the people have the power to institute change, we don’t use it!


August 28th, 2012
7:03 am

How incredibly nice it would be to have a safe, academically challenging school of my child to attend.

You left out “FOR FREE.”

How incredibly nice it would be if I got nice, comprehensive personally selected police services FOR FREE.

How incredibly nice it would be if I got private roads built how and where I want FOR FREE.

You’re not bad guys for wanting the best for your children. However you pay taxes at the same rate I do, and I have no kids in school. I have never used public schools in any state. Those taxes are an investment in the next generation.

My personal interest is not in just your kid, it is in ALL kids. And when you start using MY tax dollars to partition the schools and create schools for your child at the expense of other children you bet your sweet bippie you are the bad guy. Your interests are opposed to mine. If you want to spend your money, great. That’s what I did, that’s what my parents did. I salute you. But this creation of multiple fiefdoms because you don’t like the public services available is immoral and self-centered because it places YOUR child at the center of the universe. That’s where they should be—for you. Not for everyone else.


August 28th, 2012
7:05 am

Hurray for the re-generation of Horrace Mann’s concept of the importance of “common schools”! Should we not have a common system of schools available to all but good enough that the middle and upper classes are willing to have their own babies attend as well…

BTW–not one bit surprised by this. There are many mediocre private schools that ought to be put out of business by competent public ones…

old school doc

August 28th, 2012
7:09 am

Cat lady is right.
Yep , I am a tax payer. And my kids go to private school. My public school tax burden…
less than $100. (!) No wonder our local gov’t schools aren’t so hot.
Until we, and our legislators decide that public education is important and should be well funded, my kids will remain in private school.

John Konop

August 28th, 2012
7:26 am


I live in Cherokee county and we used the public school system. My oldest we pulled out of private school to get him into the advance math program in Cherokee that started high school math in 7th grade. The students at this level are very simular to high end private school students. And in his class of 12 most of the students got into top tier schools.

I do think the school system is moving toward an academy style education for all grades. As demonstrated with that option opening in grade school this year, and expansion for all grades rolling out soon. From my understanding Teasly is being converted to a vocational school.

Also I do know the school system is working on a homeschool/public school option. I do think Cherokee schools are opening options for kids.

I have no issue with charter schools as long as the private company takes a bigger risk than tax payers. It seems rather fiscally irrational that tax payers gave millions of stimulus money to the Cherokee charter school with no guarantees behind it. You realize if the school goes under the private company could sell the land and tax payers got screwed.

This is the same irrational type of public/private financing that cost us 50 million on the recycling plant, 500 million on solar energy……….As an entrepuernor, that has put up my own money, this type of crony capitalism is insulting!


August 28th, 2012
7:35 am

those greedy rich kids again……. we can’t possibly EVER have the govt involved in something that helps THOSE KIDS! After all, their parents didn’t work hard to get what they have….they “didn’t build it”.

Yep, let’s continue to demonize and punish success….that’ll help us solve the countries ills.

Erica Long

August 28th, 2012
7:40 am

Let’s be honest here. No one is pulling their child out of Westminster to go to KIPP. The “rich private school kids” who are coming back to public schools are leaving so-called privates that are located in a church basement and the like. These are children of parents who are sacrificing mightily to create a better option for their children and jump at the chance to enroll in public charter (that they’ve also paid tax dollars for).

CharterStarter, Too

August 28th, 2012
7:45 am

@ John Konop – I do understand what you are saying when you say, “I have no issue with charter schools as long as the private company takes a bigger risk than tax payers.” The risk is closure. And in fact, many of the management organizations invest early on in the building, initial supplies, textbooks, and personnel before tax dollars ever start flowing. They do this assuming a long range relationship where they will eventually recoup this initial investment.

My question to you is how is risk/accountability different with traditional district boards? Is there any guarantee that they won’t squander tax payer funds? And if they DO squander the funds or don’t perform, what recourse is there? They don’t close.

Please check out the information I posted on a different Maureen topic last night…I’m interested to know your thoughts.

Data sources: (Report Card, allotment sheet for # students)

Pataula Charter Academy:

· Serves 5 school districts (Baker, Early Randolph, Calhoun, and Clay Counties).
· 290 students
· They have 1 principal a business manager, and an office clerk. Like all state chartered special schools, they have the same responsibilities as any other district/LEA. They spend $0 on central/general administration.
· $4900 per pupil last school year; comparing this school to all school districts in the state, it is the lowest funded of all of them (with the lowest district being at 6086, Pike County).
· Although they were extremely lean and had to make some VERY tough decisions, and their facility is mainly used modulars, they:
o Pay on the state salary schedule
o Did not furlough their teachers
o Did not cut school days
· They made AYP

Reading CRCT:

3rd Meets/Exceeds – 90.5%
4th Meets/Exceeds – 90.7%
5th Meets/Exceeds – 81.2%
6th Meets/Exceeds – 100%
7th Meets/Exceeds – 100%
8th Meets/Exceeds – N/A

Math CRCT:

3rd Meets/Exceeds – 90.5%
4th Meets/Exceeds – 86%
5th Meets/Exceeds – 90.6%
6th Meets/Exceeds – 96.4%
7th Meets/Exceeds – 96.3%
8th Meets/Exceeds – N/A

· Dr. Barge did NOT name this a quality school according to HIS data…

Baker County:

· Serves 332 students in 1 school
· Total per pupil amount is $14,471.64, which is the 3rd highest per pupil funding in the state. Even comparing just state and local per pupil amounts, the district is at $12,417 per pupil, which is still the 3rd highest per pupil funding in the state.
· Spent only 57.7% of its budget on instruction, which is ranked #173/180 districts in lowest investment into instruction
· Spent 16.4% of its budget on general administration (central office), which is more than $500,000. The district is ranked #179/180 districts in highest amount spent on central administration.
· The district has at least 4 administrative staff doing central/general administration functions PLUS a principal, assistant principal, secretary, and IT support.
· The superintendent’s salary in 2011 was $101,827 + 13,434 (transition to a new superintendent) for a total of $115,261
· Superintendent’s travel expenditures were $5459.81
· Other travel expenditures were $29,995.98 (including: $5113.41 for the Technology Director; $1369 for a bookkeeper; and $1323 for a central administration support person)
· Spent $8417 and $280, respectively for dues and fees to the Georgia School Boards Association and the Georgia School Superintendents Association…these are lobbying organizations.
· They did NOT make AYP and have been on the Needs Improvement list for 3 years.

Reading CRCT:

3rd Meets/Exceeds – 69.2%
4th Meets/Exceeds – 69.6%
5th Meets/Exceeds – 72.4%
6th Meets/Exceeds – 88.5%
7th Meets/Exceeds – 89.5%
8th Meets/Exceeds – 91.7%

Math CRCT:

3rd Meets/Exceeds – 53.8%
4th Meets/Exceeds – 56.5%
5th Meets/Exceeds – 69.0%
6th Meets/Exceeds – 60.0%
7th Meets/Exceeds – 84.2%
8th Meets/Exceeds – 41.7%

· Superintendent John Barge is against the Constitutional Amendment because he says we don’t need it and our traditional districts are underfunded.

Some questions for tax payers to ponder:

Are you getting a good return on your investment? Is reform needed? Does anyone really think that if a district cannot self monitor and manage money and ensure academic outcomes NOW that they will ever do on their own?

Teachers are being furloughed in our state, school days are being cut, resources for instruction are lean, morale is low….but rather than addressing the problem, charters are blamed and misinformation is purposefully publicized, and the state is blamed. The public is told that charters will “bankrupt” our school systems….it looks to me like the districts are going to bankrupt themselves with their mismanagement and poor prioritization. And above all, we have many, many failing students, and this is negatively impacting our local and state economies.

Charters are intended to push improvements in public school efficiency and outcomes. Above is just ONE example of why we DO need them.


August 28th, 2012
7:51 am

Sounds like competition & when you have that the students win.


August 28th, 2012
7:54 am

Sounds like competition to me and when you have that, the students win.

John Konop

August 28th, 2012
8:05 am


In all due respect the private company has a conflict of interest. School board members do not walk a way with tax payers money if they fail.Also school board members can be voted out of office, our system does not guarantee results, but it does give you a local voice. If the private company guarnteed to pay back the millions of tax payer money given to them for sart up via gains ie the proberty……. Also,the school should guarantee a full year if they have more than 750 students.

Gwinnett Parent

August 28th, 2012
8:06 am

According to the article, the majority of the students come from public schools. We should ask, ” How much tax money are the private school kid’s parents contributing vs how much comes from the public school kids?”. How much are parents paying for their child’s seat at the charter school? Why is there a complaint about the private school students moving into charter, especially when 85 percent of the H.S. students are from public schools? I also wonder how much money would have been spent in a traditional public school towards a student who would otherwise go to a prep school vs the average student on free lunch. Some folks complain about a $2,500.00 voucher, when it supposedly costs$9,000.00 to educate one child in a public school . The local Catholic schools churn them out for$6,000 with a lot higher success rate, while giving a large amount of scholarships to the less fortunate. What we are actually trying to say here ” How dare you take advantage of the services you paid for.”

John Konop

August 28th, 2012
8:10 am


You do realize that you would need to track the students entering the charter school and compare their results overtime to get idea if the school is working better than public schools. As I have said many time the data used on both sides of this debate would not pass a basic research methods class.


August 28th, 2012
8:18 am

Bravo Reverie, I applaud your choices and you have every right to your indignance.

p.s.-To the public school teachers and administrators commenting with vitriol at the notion of an alternative to your entitled situation….those private school and charter school parents are paying education taxes every year that funds your “jobs programs”

Whirled Peas

August 28th, 2012
8:59 am

The implication here (and comment number one above) is that children of parents in private school are undeserving and should not get free schooling. First, they have the same rights as anyone else and to deny them is wrong. Just as wrong as the ASO was in denying access to choirs with too many white kids. Secondly, their schooling is not free, but paid for by their taxes.


August 28th, 2012
9:08 am

Wonder when the world will wake up and realize the school, whether public, charter or private, is no better than the parents and kids that attend.

Maureen Downey

August 28th, 2012
9:12 am

Folks, I have added links to both the Cato study and the companion analysis. Please read. I find these comments miss the point of the study: As a libertarian, free market think tank, Cato sees a thriving independent school network as the optimum education system for the U.S. It is not questioning the right of private school parents to move their children into public schools. It is saying that the migration– on the scale documented in this study — is hurting that independent school market and causing private schools to close, especially Catholic schools that have long served urban children.
And Cato maintains that the tradeoff is not worth it because the research shows that charter schools on the whole do not perform as well as the private schools, so there is no gain in student achievement. Its second point — and one that has bearing on the current Georgia debate — is that there is also a high cost associated with this private to public school shift.
So, again, the study does not attack parents for moving their kids to public charters from private. It is the impact of that move on the private school market that concerns Cato.


August 28th, 2012
9:13 am

Please keep in mind that the Cato Institute is a “research organization that promotes free-market, small-government policies.” I’m not sure how you can be a “research” institute and “promote” only one possible answer at the same time, but I’m positive it biases your findings.


August 28th, 2012
9:17 am

Truth be told, 10 years ago I put my daughter in my local school’s pre-K and it was a disaster. I was a stay at home mom and as a family we faced a “choice”. I could go back to work and then we would be able to afford to either put our kids in a “private school” of which there are many little church ones in the area. Or I could go back to work so we could pay the “housing premium” of moving to the City of Decatur (Maureen?), Dunnwoody, North Fulton etc…. where everyone is well educated and able to afford the housing and the “public” schools reflect that education and affluence.

Problem was, we liked the international diversity of our neighborhood just outside Clarkston. Just not the non-responsive idiocy of the schools we were “assigned” to attend. So instead I put full time effort into the start-up of the International Community School…

And by my choice, my neighbor’s children have benefited… I could have been Reviere, there are many such. The only difference was that some folks that also wanted to do something for the refugee kids of the area showed up at the same time we faced that decision and I thew in the effort I could have put toward a paying job.

Maureen, unless you have raised your own kids in the Clarkston feeder pattern of Dekalb, you have no right to cast stones upon those who cannot singlehandedly fix what ails their assigned school.

CharterStarter, Too

August 28th, 2012
9:20 am

@ John Knonop – A few points.

1. I HOPE we start tracking student progress across years and environments. You see, the charters are not afraid of that. Let’s track students in 3 year blocks and see how they fare in both environments. I believe that will be very, very telling.

Look at the scores above in Baker County. How much confidence can that 8th grade parent have that their 7th grader (who likely had a decent 7th grade teacher based on the scores) is not going to drop like a stone in math? We have a new longitudinal data system that will be able to do this very soon (if not now). We need to USE it to show progress of students in all environments.

2. I beg to differ that the district boards are not making off with tax payer money. They are PAID for their service. Go look on at how much money is paid out to school board members across this state – it’s millions. If they serve in a district not performing to minimal state standards (which is a scary lot of them), then they are not doing their job…and neither is the district office staff entrusted with the job of management and oversight. They are PAID to ensure students perform. Period.

You are right they can be voted out…but have you ever, ever seen anyone post the data like I have above? Districts don’t share what’s REALLY going on in their districts either financially or academically. It’s either kept hush-hush, blamed on the state for “lack of funding”, bolstered by euphemisms like APS just used the other day (We are “poised for success.” Sheesh – what a load of malarky), or in the smaller districts the officials are so ingrained in their communities that no one would consider voting them out even if they do a horrific job.

We HAVE to have a checks and balances in place to protect both the tax payers and the children.

Maureen Downey

August 28th, 2012
9:21 am

@JB, Cato is not pretending it does not have a point of view here. Far from it.
But the data on the students come from a RAND economist commissioned by Cato. I included a link to his body of work, which is extensive. This is one of the first in-depth looks at the issue of private-to-public charter migration, and it is relevant to the debate in ways other than the free market impact, which is Cato’s stated focus.


August 28th, 2012
9:30 am

I love to read how college trained minds have completely messed up the educational system. If only school was voluntary with no federal government involvement.

Proud Teacher

August 28th, 2012
9:32 am

Yes, the charter school is a free private school education paid for by the taxpayers. Those who allow this to happen are aiding and abeting the demise of the public school.


August 28th, 2012
9:33 am

All this goes to show one thing: the public school system, especially in the urban areas, is such a cluster that any and every kind of alternative is thought about and debated.

CharterStarter, Too

August 28th, 2012
9:37 am

@ Maureen – I am sure CATO and the RAND economist is looking nationwide. And yet, if you look at the demographic data both nationwide and in Georgia, it seems to go contrary to what they are publishing.

Check out the national demographics:

And Georgia:

We clearly have about 50% both nationally and in Georgia eligible for FRL – how do you reconcile that with the 1/3 number coming from private schools?


August 28th, 2012
9:37 am

Thanks Maureen. The research is in and from a much quoted, conservative think tank. Unfortuneately, I don’t think the facts will be enough to stop this costly nightmare that is part of destroying education in GA.


August 28th, 2012
9:37 am

It is related to charters being a “neutral tent” that IS threatening to mediocre private schools as much as mediocre public schools. To the extent that there were many little “segregation academy’s” set up in rural small towns, will we not be to the better if the energetic folk chuck both opt for a common place that is good enough for all. And if the more affluent are counting on using them, will you then be more likely to vote a tax increase to support them to a standard that the affluent would consider acceptable for their own kids? No incentive now to throw more “good money after bad” for the folks that can’t imagine ever using them… This is the problem of incompetent urban and rural education..

CharterStarter, Too

August 28th, 2012
9:42 am

@ Proud Teacher – has it ever occurred to you that the local districts are making decisions that are impacting your work in the classroom.

Look at Baker County above….how do you think the teachers there feel? I’d be pretty resentful if I was furloughed or didn’t have what I needed in the classroom with this kind of crazy waste going on.

The point is that we have central office bureaucracies that are KILLING our public education system with their poor priorities and excessive spending. Charters aren’t trying to kill the system – only the waste and crappy decision making this is impacting our public school classrooms….including our teachers who are at an all time low with morale.

CharterStarter, Too

August 28th, 2012
9:45 am

@ Brasstown. Can you please explain your math of why the state charters will be “more costly?”

Pataula Charter Academy, a state chartered special school. Last year was at under $5000 per pupil.
Baker County, a traditional public school. Last year spent nearly $15,000 per pupil.

Help me to understand.

Proud Teacher

August 28th, 2012
9:55 am

I am fully aware that the local board and administration are making radical decisions that are harming our public schools, but charter schools are not the answer to the demise of the public school. If the students were all in the real public school,then there wouldn’t be furloughs and other such cuts because of the student population and the state funding of techers’ salaries. We have too much unused unnecessary technology, too many administrators, and too much manipulation of school funds. Students are not items of merchandise in a store. It’s impossible to have a decent learning environment when the powers-that-be want to handle the school like it’s a business. Charter schools are businesses; their bottom line is money and not the achievements of the students.

CharterStarter, Too

August 28th, 2012
9:55 am

@ Brasstown – One more thing. If you are going to say the “added bureaucracy” of a Commission, how about we consider it this way…

The Commission will oversee about 18,000 students. In the prior Commission, there were about 5 staffers: and executive director, an academic expert, a financial expert, an attorney, and a secretary.

Baker County serves a little over 300 students and has well over 5 people.

Tell me again where we have unneeded “bureaucracy.”

How about, as a compromise, we dissolve the unneeded central office in Baker County and add the Commission, and then it will be a wash, bureaucratically speaking. And if you dissolve or combine other tiny district central offices or large urban districts carrying massive unnecessary costs, you can actually recoup some wasted tax payer dollars and put the dollars back into the classrooms where it belongs. How’s that for being fiscally conservative?

CharterStarter, Too

August 28th, 2012
10:06 am

@ Proud teacher –

First of all, the majority of charters are run by parents and community members. They are terribly underfunded and still make it on lean budgets. A few use management organizations, but the vast majority don’t.

I do not think the charters will completely “fix” the woes of the traditional districts. What I DO think though is that they are causing districts to rethink their priorities, to step up their game. It is opening conversation with policy makers about what makes sense with educational funding and how that ties to economic development and the overall health of our state and its citizens. Charters are game changers in public education. They are pushing the envelope and raising the bar.

Consider how they can be used to improve conditions in your school and classroom. If teachers in this state stepped out and said, “ENOUGH! I’m TIRED of my central office syphoning classroom funds to support a bureaucracy. I am TIRED of getting the blame for failing our kids when I don’t have the resources I need to actually instruct.” If you all stood up and supported something like chartering, then the districts would have no choice but to rethink how they do business.

I am not trying to “spin” you – but think hard about it – and broadly. I’ve been in the public school classroom for many years and felt helpless to district decision making (until I joined the charter sector). Something has to change – communities are demanding it, and teachers should, too. We are losing wonderful teachers in public education because they can’t stand what’s going on anymore, and in the process, we our losing the battle with educating kids. It’s a travesty.


August 28th, 2012
10:07 am

This is just another attempt by Cato and their ilk to justify vouchers. The “danger” they see is to PRIVATE schools, not public or charter. Cato is manufacturing an ‘alarm” over private schools that close (and thus, to Cato, the ‘vital source of innovation and competition for the government sector’) due to parents pulling their elementary school kids out and sending them to charters. And Erica above is correct: The private schools they are referencing are primarily small, reading-readiness or other early-intervention places that are often designed and used for specific, short-term purposes. Note that the research shows a significant fall-off in the percent of private-to-charter students as they grow older.

And as many above have said – These charter schools are paid for with tax money that the private school parents already pay. They have just decided to get something back for that money. They are not taking anything away from anyone, but rather putting their (supposedly) better-prepared student into the charter mixture and thereby improving everyone’s learning, assuming that the research on the positive effect of mixing higher and lower performers is to be believed.

If the implications of this research are correct and better-prepared students are flocking disproportionately to charter schools, it makes me wonder why those urban charters do not outperform their traditional public rivals. The AJC story published earlier this summer, along with data from Ohio, showed that to be the case. Either the private schools are not preparing these elementary students effectively or the charters have performance issues that are masked by the influx of the private school students.

However, the immediate rush to point fingers at the ‘privileged’ students and parents for being ‘greedy’ in using services they have already paid for (see Bernie’s comment) is the divide and conquer strategy that voucher advocates like Cato want to foment. This is not about public versus charter versus private. Read the article. It attempts to set up empirical support for “private choice reform” – in other words, public funding of private schools.


August 28th, 2012
10:18 am

@CharterStarter Too – You didn’t mention the private school children that have been recruited from counties outside the 5 that you serve that are using “fake” addresses to attend when there are children from underprivileged families within the area that have been denied. You may want to add that to your not so accurate “statistics”. I think this is what Maureen is highlighting in her article. Thumbs up Maureen!


August 28th, 2012
10:19 am

@Proud Teacher:

Maybe we should go to all charter schools. Then all children could get a “free private school education paid for by the taxpayers”. If that is the “demise of the public school”, I say let’s go for it.


August 28th, 2012
10:19 am

In my opinion, the public school system is all about holding back the cognitive elite in hopes their dimmer and duller cousins will catch up. We are now in the third generation of retarding the growth of the cognitive elite, and the dumb cousins are just as far behind. But we have succeeded in lowering the accomplishments of the best and brightest. It is time to end public education funded on someone else’s dime. Let the parents pay for the education they and their children deserve, then maybe both will put some value on it. As long as some other guy is paying the bill, public education will be 1) a welfare program for education majors, 2) a baby sitting service for the poor, 3) a method for slowing the education of the cognitive elite. In another generation or two, we may be the most diverse nation in the world, but we will also be one of the poorest. Try eating diversity for dinner, I think you will find it very unsatisfactory!

Fred ™

August 28th, 2012
10:22 am

Charter schools are a thinly veiled attempt by Republicans to have public money pay for THEIR private schools. More welfare to the rich.

If the approach that charters are taking is so awesome then ALL public schools should be taught this way, not just a few for the elite rich.

Just like the new 1% left lane in Gwinnett County. God forbid that POOR PEOPLE using a carpool should get to have an advantage over Joe Rich guy. Well the Republicans there took care of that. They filled their contractor buddies pockets with money AND get a free lane (usually 2 cents a mile) so they don’t have to sit in traffic like the poor people.

Now they want to do the same with schools. Tkae MORE money from schools so they can build elite schools and fill them with “the right kind” of people. What miserable selfish louts. If you want to send your child to private school then do what I do, sacrifice and PAY FOR IT. Quit trying to urinate on the poor folks.