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Private education choice programs around the country have generated tens of billions in net savings to taxpayers, according to a new research study. Through 2018, the report found, between $12.1 billion and $27.8 billion in savings have been realized as the result of 40 education choice programs in 19 states plus the District of Columbia. 

These school choice programs saved between $1.80 and $2.80, on average, for every dollar spent on the programs.

As education budgets are stretched thin across the country, the result of lost tax revenue through difficult pandemic economic conditions, these findings should be expected to resonate with state policymakers.  

Dr. Marty F. Lueken, “The Fiscal Effects of Private K-12 Education Choice Programs in the United States.” EdChoice Working Paper 2021-1. March 2, 2021. 

There are 67 educational choice programs operating in the United States today, serving families in 28 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  The study examined fiscal effects of these programs between 1990 and 2018.

The most important factor in achieving the savings discussed has to do with the relative size of the payments received by students for use in these programs. 

“Students in choice programs received less than one-third of the revenue they would generate for their states’ public schools,” observed the report’s author, Dr. Martin F. Lueken, director of EdChoice’s Fiscal Research and Education Center.  

When children move to private schools to participate in education choice programs, private philanthropic dollars and other new revenue sources frequently make up the difference between the size of the program disbursement and the actual costs to attend the private school.  Participating private schools often absorb these costs in their operating budgets, or through established scholarship programs of their own.

The report also observed that public school districts benefit fiscally because they often keep a significant portion of per-pupil funding for students who depart their schools to participate in these programs.  Additionally, most states’ school funding systems maintain “hold harmless” funding provisions that protect school district budgets against revenue losses from declining enrollment.

For Nevadans, it is worth noting that their state’s Opportunity Scholarship program was not included in the study because, as the author explained, only half of available scholarship funds were disbursed that year (funds were held back by scholarship organizations as reserves to continue those students’ scholarships in future years).  This was deemed non-typical enough to merit excluding the program from the fiscal effects analysis.

Charter schools in seven U.S. cities were responsible for learning gains projected to produce nearly half a million dollars in total lifetime earnings by their graduates, according to a new study by the University of Arkansas’ Department.  

DeAngelis, C., Wolf, P., Syftestad, C., Maloney, D., & May, J. (2021) Making it Count: The Productivity of Public Charter Schools in Seven U.S. Cities. School Choice Demonstration Project, University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform.

What’s more, each dollar invested in a child’s K-12 schooling creates, on average, $8.00 in lifetime earnings in public charter schools.  This compares favorably to $5.46 in lifetime earnings in traditional public schools for each dollar spent.  This a higher return on investment of $2.54 per dollar in the charter versus traditional district-run sectors, effectively a 46 percent return on investment advantage, according the the study authors.

Public charter schools, which serve all students and are operated by private, usually nonprofit, operators, generally receive less per-student funding than traditional public schools, and are not included in other subsidies frequently granted to school districts, such as funding earmarked for facilities or direct legislative appropriations.  In the final day of Nevada’s last legislative session, for example, $72 million in operating funding was appropriated to be split between school district schools, but state charter schools were bypassed.

In four of the cities examined – New Orleans, Denver, Indianapolis and Camden — charter schools demonstrated cost-effectiveness advantages higher than 50 percent.  The other cities examined were Washington, DC, San Antonio and Memphis.

Camden, NJ, charter schools posted the highest advantage among the cities in the study in student reading achievement gains compared with their school district.

Last week, the North Las Vegas City Council approved unanimously a plan to extend its Southern Nevada Urban Micro Academy (SMUMA) into 2021.  This first-of-its-kind public-private partnership between one of Nevada’s fastest-growing cities, and perhaps the municipality hardest hit by the pandemic, and our education nonprofit organization, established and operates in-person microschools in two North Las Vegas recreation centers and one library.

As parents and educators everywhere dig deep daily for the perseverance to overcome learning loss during pandemic conditions, learning gains are very much at the heart of SNUMA’s unique model.  In our first semester they have been on par with the nation’s top public/charter schools even during “normal” times — 3 out of 4 children came to us in August below grade level (mostly well more than a year below).  Already 3 out of 5 are at or above grade level in English Language Arts. The story in math is a similar one.  Learning growth is thriving at levels North Las Vegas schools have seldom, if ever, seen, and our families, with whom we enjoy some of the closest interactive relationships of our careers in education, tell us their children’s learning is thriving at levels at least on par with any they have experienced.

Our gratitude for the deep partnerships that make SNUMA’s microschooling success possible runs deep.  The astutely compassionate vision from which North Las Vegas leaders like Mayor John Lee, Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown, and City Manager Ryann Juden operate to serve the needs of their community pave a powerful path for a responsive and highly-effective partnership for SNUMA. City IT and library and recreation center staffs demonstrate consummate professionalism and expertise allowing SNUMA to operate smoothly and safely throughout the most challenging of pandemic conditions.  National philanthropic partner Cadence Learning’s generosity in providing its world-class, cutting edge learning model and content for our older children (which they have free of charge, incredibly, since day one) deepens their academic and whole-child learning experience every day.  Our experienced team of learning guides brings their can’t stop/won’t stop energy every single day.  And the insuppressible spirit of the families we serve makes SNUMA’s success one born of love for both our learners and their learning.

As SNUMA blazes forward into its unprecedented second semester of “Microschooling to make the powerless powerful,” we look forward to sharing the lessons and takeaways from our experiences in this space – check back often.  To learn more about SNUMA, and for registration information, click here.

 

A fourth grade child in SNUMA has fun posing as an astronaut while talking about historical figures in America.

Presentation to the Coalition of Public Independent Charter Schools

Charter schools are generally smaller and less bureaucratic, so generally thought to be well positioned to respond to and navigate through these unprecedented times nimbly and quickly.  Are they and will they?

This is easier said than done, of course.  This presentation focuses on seven ares that, when addressed schoolwide, will lead to higher-quality distance instruction that meets the needs of all students:

 Equitable Access to Learning
 Student Engagement/Behavior and Social-Emotional Support
 Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
 Special Populations
 Staff Professional Development
 Family Engagement
 Resiliency for Managing through Crisis

Presentation Online Here

Find the Full Report Here

 

Presentation to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers 2020 Leadership Conference

Nevada Action’s Don Soifer, along with with InspireNOLA CEO Jamar McKneely and national charter school guru Nelson Smith, made this presentation addressing aspects of microschooling important to charter school authorizers on October 27, 2020.  The presentation discusses challenges Pandemic Pods present to charter schooling, including those related to equity for all students as well as to measuring success within existing charter school (and public school) accountability systems, and factors relating to many state requirements governing public charter schools such as seat-time and facilities requirements.

Current demands for nontraditional schooling solutions during pandemic and post-pandemic conditions around the country were also discussed. “Authorizing much small, possibly temporary learning sites could require reframing what’s meant by ‘school,'” the authors observe.  As charter schools, such as InspireNOLA, explore workable “Pandemic Pod,” solutions, and the appeal of microschooling expands, charter school authorizers will need new approaches, and new tools, to extend chartering principals and practices to their oversight.

Click here to download the presentation.