The Fiscal Impact of Charter School Expansion: Calculations in Six Pennsylvania School Districts

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Publication Date
September 2017

Abstract

As charter school enrollment in Pennsylvania rises, understanding the fiscal impact of charter school expansion is critical for school districts to accurately budget and to anticipate current and future costs.

In order to calculate the fiscal impact of charter expansion, RFA compared the difference between new costs (charter tuition payments) and new savings a district can realize as students depart (variable costs). RFA examined six school districts across Pennsylvania that varied in size, charter penetration rates, and budget. RFA then estimated the fiscal impact of charter expansion under four different charter growth rates, calculating impact in Years 1 and 5. In each, we present fiscal impacts on a per-charter-pupil basis, as a total annual amount, and as a percentage of a district’s charter school tuition rate.

Overall, RFA’s study finds that as charter enrollment expands, the fiscal impact is consistently negative in both the short- and long-term, indicating that even as students depart for charter schools, school districts experience significant long-term fiscal impacts.

In addition to the report, RFA also created a Charter Cost Calculation Tool, which can be used by school districts to create customized estimates of the cost of charter expansion in their districts. The Charter Cost Calculation Tool (Excel) can be downloaded here.

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Authors

  • David Lapp
  • Joshua Lin
  • Erik Dolson
  • Della Moran