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Charter School Expansion FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions: Charter School Expansion

Revised 4.5.17

What are charter schools? Are they considered public schools?
Charter schools are classified as public schools and funded by Missouri tax payers; however, they operate more like private schools. An unelected, non-profit board governs charter schools.  Local communities and school districts have no power to oversee them.

How are charter schools funded?
Charter schools receive the equivalent of all federal, state, and local dollars that a school district would receive for every student that they enrolled. This is accomplished by withholding the total amount per student from the local school district in which the charter school is operating.

How do charter schools “take” money from local public schools?
Even if a number of students leave from different classrooms across a school district to attend a charter school, the cost of operating a community’s entire school district is essentially unchanged. School districts are left with less money to cover the same operating expenses, such as maintenance, utilities and transportation costs. To put it another way, if one student leaves a classroom to attend a charter school, the district doesn’t save money because it can’t lay off 1/25th of a teacher.

Aren’t more options a good thing?
Local communities do not have a say in whether a charter school can open in their school district, therefore, taxpayers are not allowed to determine if the school is even needed in the community. As more charter schools open, costs increase across the community in the form of staff, utility bills, insurance premiums, and other operating costs. This is money that is best spent on the traditional public school classrooms and services for those students.

Who oversees charter schools on a statewide level?
Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools are not regulated by the State Board of Education. In fact, the State Board of Education is not allowed to accredit or close failing charter schools. Instead, charter schools are regulated by their sponsoring entity. In Missouri, the entities that sponsor charter schools are typically colleges, universities and the Missouri Charter School Commission.

How have charter schools performed?
While charter schools are not accredited by the state, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education does calculate an annual performance report for every charter school in the state. According to 2016 data, of the 39 charter school operating in the state of Missouri, 11 would be deemed provisionally accredited and six would be deemed unaccredited. Four did not receive a score because they are considered too new. In total, less than half (46%) of charter schools are meeting the minimum requirements to be accredited.

What accountability standards apply to charter schools?
Neither local taxpayers, nor the state of Missouri are allowed to institute accountability standards for charter schools. Instead, accountability is determined by the charter school’s sponsor. In some cases, charter schools remain open despite poor academic performance or financial mismanagement. It is financially advantageous for entities to sponsor charter schools.  Sponsors can receive up to $125,000 per year for every charter school they govern.

Don’t some charter schools outperform traditional schools?
A select few charter schools do better than traditional public schools, however, there are a number of things to consider in those limited instances. Many high performing charter schools accept a large number of students in the early grades, but as students leave a charter school for one reason or another, charter schools are allowed to leave those seats open; clearly this can produce exceptionally low teacher-student ratios creating an uneven playing field for those in traditional public schools that are held to a higher standard. 

Furthermore, in many communities where charter schools institute this practice, student mobility (students moving from school to school) is high.  Charter schools don’t have to face the problems that come with students “filling open seats” including bringing newly enrolled students “up to grade level.”

What happens when a charter school closes?
When a charter school sponsor does decide that a charter school needs to close because of poor academic performance, students are forced to find other educational opportunities, most likely with the local traditional public school. As noted above, the local school district is then responsible for bringing students that were enrolled in the charter school back up to grade level which usually requires the district to provide additional support services for the students.

 

When some charter schools fail, they close. Isn’t that a good thing?

No one wants to see students suffer because of system that is inadequately meeting their academic needs, however, communities also bear the brunt of a failed charter school. The state of Missouri’s taxpayers have spent over $620 million on failed charter schools since 1999. When a charter school fails, it ultimately requires additional resources be spent to bring the students that had attended the school back up to grade-level.

What are some issues regarding charter schools in other states and at the national level?