MGT of America’s recently released report examines the fiscal impact of independent charter schools on LAUSD. The results show that the unmitigated growth of charter schools currently results in over half a billion dollars in lost revenue and added costs each year. That figure is expected to only increase in future years.
This means there are, and will be, fewer resources available to maintain and improve high-quality community schools in every neighborhood. This will have a particular impact on the highest-needs students, who tend to be served by LAUSD more so than independent charters.
This fiscal crisis exacerbates the pre-existing problem of inadequate funding of California schools, with the state’s per pupil funding consistently hovering in the bottom 25% nationwide. Both issues must be addressed in order for all students to have access to a high-quality education.
Taken together, the findings in the report paint a picture of a system that prioritizes the growth opportunities for charter school operators over the educational opportunities for all students.
Two hundred and twenty-one independent charter schools currently operate within LAUSD’s boundaries. These schools currently enroll about 101,000 students. Meanwhile, more than 540,000 students attend schools run by LAUSD, representing 84 percent of all students. MGT of America’s recently released report Fiscal Impact of Charter Schools on LAUSD shows that the fiscal impact of charter schools on LAUSD is unsustainable if left unchecked, and will contribute to the eventual bankruptcy of LAUSD. The unmitigated growth of charter schools will diminish the educational opportunities for the overwhelming majority of students through factors outside of their control.
As the number of independent charter schools continues to grow, it becomes increasingly important for LAUSD to quantify, forecast, and manage the costs associated with independent charter school expansion.
MGT’s findings point to key changes in policy and practice that can be deployed to create a more financially sustainable system that benefits all students. LAUSD, the State of California, and the Federal Government have a variety of tools at their disposal to expand educational opportunities for students and to ameliorate the financial impacts that have the potential to destabilize the entire Los Angeles public school landscape.
These tools include but are not limited to: changing fiscal management practices to create an accurate accounting of independent charter school oversight costs; collecting all fees and reimbursements due to the district from co-located charter schools; fully funding all instructional mandates; identifying immediate opportunities at the state level to improve district programs to better serve the needs of Los Angeles’ students; and publically analyzing the educational and economic impacts of each charter school authorization.
This brief takes a selection of the findings from the MGT report and proposes equitable solutions to mitigate some of the impacts of those findings. Although not all of the findings from the report are addressed herein, the findings taken as a whole paint a picture of a system that prioritizes the growth opportunities for charter school operators over the educational opportunities for all students. All discussions of sustainable school finance take place within the larger context of the need to ensure not just fully equitable distribution of existing dollars, but fully adequate funding from both state and federal sources.