View Directly Below of Seven Primary School Children Huddled Together Looking at the Camera

Study Debunks False Claims Against Charter Public School Funding and Demographics

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on

Charter schools in Massachusetts educating more special needs students with equal or lower attrition rates and better outcomes

BOSTON – Massachusetts charter public schools do not drain resources from district schools, they outperform the school districts from which their students come, and have attrition rates that are lower than or equal to those districts, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

The study refutes false claims that charter public schools educate dramatically fewer special needs students and that those students leave charters at a higher rate.

“Charters are now educating nearly the same percentage of English language learners (ELLs) and special education students as the sending districts,” said Dr. Cara Stillings Candal, author of “Best Practices in Massachusetts Charter Schools: What We Know Now.”  “Those students also outperform and have lower attrition rates than their district peers.”

Charter public schools are included within the commonwealth’s K-12 public education funding formula, known as Chapter 70, to protect them from being subject to annual budget cuts.  State funding flows to the school district, which then pays tuition for students who choose to attend a charter.

School districts receive 100 percent reimbursement from the commonwealth the first year after a student leaves and 25 percent reimbursement for each of the next five years.  However, the reimbursements are not part of the Chapter 70 formula and have sometimes not been fully funded.

Some say the commonwealth should pay charter tuition, but for students who come from low-income “foundation districts,” which account for half of all Massachusetts charter school students, that is essentially already the case.  In those districts, state foundation aid and reimbursements are roughly equal to charter tuition.

“Fiscal problems are often blamed on charter schools, but they are really the result of districts’ failure to ‘right size,’” said Pioneer Executive Director Jim Stergios.  “When a school district fails to adjust to declining enrollment, it says more about the district’s inability to change than the impact of charters.”

Statewide, charter public school attrition is declining, and even though the schools are disproportionately located in urban areas, they approach statewide averages.  Boston charters also have lower attrition rates than the Boston Public Schools.

The same is true for ELL and special education students.  Massachusetts charter public schools used to enroll these students at significantly lower rates than their district counterparts, largely because it was difficult for charters to recruit them.

That changed when a 2010 state law required districts to share mailing lists with charter public schools and required charters to provide the commonwealth with detailed recruitment and retention plans.  By 2012, ELL enrollment more than tripled in Boston charters and the increase in special education enrollment was even more dramatic.

Those charter public school students also outperform their district counterparts.  In Springfield, a slightly higher percentage of charter students with special needs score Advanced or Proficient than do their district counterparts.  In Boston, the percentage is more than double the district rate.

Among Dr. Candal’s recommendations is a call for policy makers to provide districts with the tools they need to right size when enrollments decline.

About the Author

Cara Stillings Candal is an education researcher and writ­er. She is a senior consultant for research and curriculum at the National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education and a senior fellow at Pioneer Institute. She was formerly research assistant professor and lecturer at the Boston University School of Education. Candal holds a B.A. in English literature from Indiana University at Bloomington, an M.A. in social science from the University of Chicago, and a doctorate in education policy from Boston University.

About Pioneer

Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.

Get Updates on Our Charter Schools Initiative

View Directly Below of Seven Primary School Children Huddled Together Looking at the Camera

Study Debunks False Claims Against Charter Public School Funding and Demographics

Charter schools in Massachusetts educating more special needs…

Study: MA Charter Public Schools Have Lower Attrition Rates Than Sending School Districts

Charters also seeing higher special needs enrollment, helping…

Be informed, especially today

Pioneer Institute's core mission is educating the public on policy…

Study Finds Boston Charter Students More Likely to Take and Pass AP Tests

Pass rates for African-American, Latino, and economically disadvantaged…
elementary school students arms up

Cap, Talent Pipeline, And Facilities Funding Among Factors Prohibiting State Charter Sector From Achieving Scale

“Yes” vote on statewide ballot initiative could attract more…

New Video Release: The Time to Act

Today, Pioneer is pleased to present a powerful video about the bigger picture - why the fight to expand charter public schools matters to all of us.

Study: Massachusetts Charters Enrolling More English Language Learners

Charter ELLs have lower attrition rates, better academic outcomes…
Portrait of elementary school kids and teacher in corridor

Charter School Special-Needs Students Achieving Excellent Outcomes

Percentage Of Charter School Special-Needs Students Is Rising,…

How Phoenix Academies Transform Potential High School Dropouts into College Grads

Study Explores How Phoenix Academies Transform Potential High…

Education Access Event to Feature Daughter of Lead Plaintiff in Brown vs Board of Ed

As Massachusetts debates raising the charter school cap, school…

Study Highlights Best Practices In Summer Enrichment Programs

Read coverage of this report in The Recorder. Second of three-part…
Know Nothing Event 2016 Invite

Event To Call For Moving “Know-Nothing” Governor’s Portrait From State House Wall

Bigoted Know-Nothing Amendments still part of state constitution Read…
Rear view of class raising hands --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Charter Funding Study Calls For Money To More Closely Follow Students

State should fund “target aid,” increase funding that follows…
Charter Week 2016 Invite

Press Release: National Charter School Hall Of Fame Member & Accomplished Researcher Among Charter Forum Speakers

Join us for “Best Practices from Urban Charter Schools,” a Pioneer Institute forum at Boston’s Omni Parker House hotel on Wednesday, May 4th from 8:00-9:50 a.m.

Public Statement: MA Senate Bill Ducks Moral Responsibility to Lead on Charter Schools

The Massachusetts Senate’s charter public school bill is disappointing…