A national analysis of school staff expenditures finds that charter schools on average spend less per pupil on instructional salaries compared with public schools, and for-profit charters spend less than nonprofits.
Mark Weber and Bruce Baker of Rutgers University, whose research was recently published in the journal Educational Policy, combined information from three large databases containing information on student demographics, enrollment and for-profit charter school status versus nonprofit charter school status. They then examined how expenditures for staffing and instruction varied among the schools while controlling for school grade configuration, student demographics and need.
Their analysis was limited to the 14 states plus Washington, D.C., that have the largest proportion of students in charter schools. (New York did not make the cut.)
While finding variation among the 14 states, the researchers found that on average, across all settings, charter schools spend less per pupil on instructional salaries compared with district public schools. They found for-profit charters spend significantly less in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In all cases, except Michigan where for-profit charters are better endowed, the for-profit charters spent less than the nonprofits.
Weber and Baker say children attending for-profit charters are likely to be in less well-resourced classrooms and schools than their peers attending district schools. They say for-profit charters face pressures to keep costs low and may do so by increasing class size or hiring less experienced staff. They found nonprofit charters seem to maintain slightly better teaching and learning conditions than their for-profit counterparts by using fundraising dollars to defray salary expenses.