Buried on the Department of Education’s website is a page that lists per pupil spending on a school-wide, district-wide, and system-wide basis. Using this information, as well as expense data from the 2007-2008 audits and the recent Independent Budget Office report, we compared spending by charter schools and traditional public schools that are located in the same building.

We found that charter schools spent $365 less per pupil than their co-located traditional public schools in 2007-2008. You can see our calculations in a workbook here.

Some notes on our methodology:

  • We looked only at the amount the co-located traditional public school spent per pupil on their general education students (which includes part-time but not full-time special education students). This is because while charter schools do enroll special needs students, very few offer all-day special education classes. For reference, we included the numbers for overall per-pupil and full-time special education spending in our database.
  • We did not adjust for charter school demographics, save the case of Opportunity Charter School, which we know enrolls a large number of special education students. For this comparison, we looked at overall per pupil spending.
  • Unlike the IBO’s report, we include the total amount that charter schools spent in 2007-2008, which contains philanthropy and federal funding sources, such as Title I monies.
  • For charter schools, we looked at how much they spent per pupil, as reported in their 2007-2008 audits. To this number, we added $3,735, which is the estimated value of the amount of in-kind services that charters received from the DOE in 2007-2008. (Since the IBO report estimated the value of services received in 2008-2009, we adjusted their number by 5% to account for the slightly smaller DOE budget in 2007-2008.)
  • Some charter schools did not have audits available for 2007-2008. To correct for this, we looked at their expense numbers from 2008-2009 and decreased them by 13%. The 13% decrease is meant to adjust for the fact that charter schools received only $11,023 per pupil in 2007-2008 versus $12,443 in 2008-2009.

Finally, in addition to these calculations, we created an accessible Excel database of school-specific spending information available for most traditional public schools. This data includes breakdowns of specific spending components, such as teacher compensation. It was compiled from pages like this one available on the DOE website.

As always, we welcome feedback and suggestions for future areas of research!