Assessing charter schools’ impact on districts is too important to get wrong

Robin Lake:

Several months ago I critiqued a report by Dr. Gordon Lafer that was published by In the Public Interest (ITPI), a think tank that has long been critical of charter schools and recently helped rally supporters of a five-year moratorium on new charters. Unfortunately, the report continues to inform policy deliberations in California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom has tasked a commission to study charter school policy changes.

Lafer’s methodology, which has not been peer-reviewed, measures the budget impact of closing local charter schools on three hypothetical school district budgets. It makes several flawed assumptions that result in unsupported conclusions.

The study assumes that without charter schools, all the charter students within district boundaries would attend that district’s schools. Then it assumes that the district’s new tax revenue connected to those new students would exceed the cost of educating them, resulting in an improved financial picture for the district.

The questionable assumptions don’t end there.