Saturday, July 24, 2010

Charter Schools: Time to Pull the Plug?

The LFC has issued a report highly critical of the cost-to-benefit ratio of the charter schools. Among the recommendations are to cut funding for existing schools and stop funding for new schools. There are currently 72 charter schools in New Mexico. According to a survey of 16 of the schools, the graduation rate is only one out of two for charter schools (51%) while it is two out of three for state schools. The study also found excessive costs, poor management of taxpayer funds (one school spent instructional funds for a high school prom), and poor achievement scores in comparison with state schools. Charter schools spend $9200 per student while school districts spend only $7300 per student.

The bottom line is student performance. If charter schools have low achievement scores and poor graduation rates, taxpayers should stop funding them. This seems especially urgent, given the $2000 extra per pupil taxpayers are shelling out now for poor performance. This would be true in good economic times, but in the kind of fiscal environment we are in now, it seems to be a good time to pull the plug.

Can anyone give me a good argument to keep them going?


Douglas Crets said...

Seems like if the survey was only on sixteen of the schools, we are not dealing with an entire range of numbers from which we can base our decisions.

Also, why not link to the survey or the report so that your readers can offer you some evidence-backed responses to your question?

People often take these numbers out of context, or use limited surveys like this one to make the broad generalization that all charter schools are bad. Both charter schools and the traditional schools they sometimes replace are public schools, so it would be interesting to see why the charter schools are spending more than traditionals.

By spending more, it may not even mean that the charter schools are "given" more money by officials, but that they may have to come up with funds elsewhere. Lots of ways numbers can be interpreted, and I'd have to see more information.

Anonymous said...

Educator in New Mexico have been short changed by Bill Richardson. Sect V Garcia was a train wreck and kept NM at 49 or 50 th at every catagory in public education.

Anonymous said...

No arguement here. However some of the blame could be directed to the State Dept of ED for poor oversight. Charter Schools are a great concept, but with such poor achievement scores and the fact that they are so costly, I don't think we are getting much bang for the buck. Beto

Jose Z. Garcia said...

Good points. But we know a lot more about charter schools than just this study. Stanford University did a study of 16 states with charter schools, including New Mexico, finding that NM charter schools were behind regular schools in academic achievement. The study is available at And there have been numerous scandals with charter schools spending of taxpayer money. Danny Moon, for example, highly touted as head of Albuquerque Charter Vocational High School by Gov. Bill Richardson and Reader's Digest as a model leader for charter schools, was indicted for racketeering and fraud; he died this year just after his trial began. He was being paid $175,000 to oversee two schools. Another Albuquerque charter school superintendent was being paid $204,000 for overseeing 500 students. The Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent gets paid $256,000 for overseeing 94,000 students. Lack of accountability has been a strong criticism even from charter school advocates. But already charter schools have lobbyists slurping at the trough, trying to bully their way into perpetual taxpayer funding, in classic NM style.

Paul said...

Charter schools, public schools,state investments, anything that the LFC investigates...we always need to look at the methodology the LFC uses. It is the same that PNM uses for rate increases. Develop your conclusions first, then "back the necessary facts in" to justify your conclusion. This makes all of the work by LFC suspect.

Jose Z. Garcia said...

Paul: What, exactly, is wrong with the LFC's methodology? I'd like to know if there is anything specific you have in mind. They reached the same conclusion many other studies have reached about charter schools in New Mexico.