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charter schools, school choice, school funding, school finance


In 2015-16, the United states spent over $660 billion on its public education system in hopes of providing children with greater opportunities to excel academically and to improve their life trajectories. While public education dollars have risen at a relatively fast pace historically, future challenges, including underfunded pension liabilities, suggest policymakers should economize wherever possible. Meanwhile, the number of public charter schools has increased exponentially. from 1991 to 2018, charter school legislation passed in 44 states and the nation’s capital, and student enrollment in charters increased to around 3.2 million. Since educational resources are limited, we examine which types of schooling offer society the biggest “bang for the buck.” both cost- effectiveness and return-on-investment analyses (ROI) compare the productivity of different organizations providing a similar service – in this case, public education. cost-effectiveness is “the efficacy of a program in achieving given intervention outcomes in relation to the program costs.” We examine the differences in cost-effectiveness and ROI for public charter schools and traditional public schools (TPS) in eight major U.S. cities: Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, New York City, San Antonio, and the District of Columbia. We determine how much money is invested in public charter schools and TPS, what levels of student achievement are attained across the two public school sectors, and how much economic payoff our society can expect to receive as a result of the educational investments in each sector. this report is an update to our first study examining these differences across the United states at the city level.