Report Finds Public Charter Schools More Cost Effective Than Traditional Public School Counterparts

"It matters not only how much but also how well schools use public funds.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new report released today by the University of Arkansas finds that despite receiving fewer per pupil dollars, public charter schools are producing greater results on national math and reading assessments, and better long-term economic gains for students than traditional public schools.

The Productivity of Public Charter Schools looks at two measures to compare financial input with academic and long-term results. The first measure examined cost effectiveness by comparing per pupil funding to National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for both charter and district schools. The second measure examined the return on investment by comparing learning gains developed over time to an estimate of economic return over a students’ lifetime.

For every $1,000 invested, public charter schools gave students a weighted average of an additional 17 points in math and 16 additional points in reading on NAEP assessments compared to traditional public schools – showing charters nationwide to be 40 percent more cost effective. In some cities, such as Washington, D.C. this percentage gap reached more than 100 percent.

For long-term gains, public charter schools delivered a three percent increase in economic gains for a student who attends a charter school for one year and a 19 percent increase for a student who attends for half of their K-12 education (6.5 years).

“This report shows that despite receiving fewer per pupil dollars, public charter schools are delivering on the promise of providing students with a high-quality education,” said Nina Rees, National Alliance President and CEO. “Lawmakers considering ways to get the most return on their often limited investment in education should take note of this study and the proven results of public charter schools to provide a cost-effective education for their students.”

In the report, researchers Patrick J. Wolf, Albert Cheng, Meagan Batdorff, Larry Maloney, Jay F. May, and Sheree T. Speakman say, “It matters not only how much but also how well schools use public funds… Our analysis here leads to the major conclusion from the study: Charter schools tend to exhibit more productivity than traditional public schools.”

Click here to read The Productivity of Public Charter Schools.

About Public Charter Schools

Public charter schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Since 2010, all but one independent research study has found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching low income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools. Separate studies by the Center for Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood.

About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector. For more information, please visit our website at 

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