Thursday, April 16, 2015

Transparent California: The Economics Of Charter Schools Vs. Public Schools (PUSD, LAUSD and San Diego)

I got a note from Robert Fellner yesterday. Robert, who created and maintains the Transparent California website that has caused so much excitement in certain California governmental circles (Sierra Madre's City Hall being one), has now added a few Charter Schools to their site. Apparently Charter School data has been a little harder to get, and even now only 22% have complied with TC's request.

So what are Charter Schools? And what makes them different from traditional Public Schools? I went to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools website to find out (link).

What Are Public Charter Schools? Charter schools are unique public schools that are allowed the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. 

Charter schools were created to help improve our nation’s public school system and offer parents another public school option to better meet their child’s specific needs. The core of the charter school model is the belief that public schools should be held accountable for student learning. In exchange for this accountability, school leaders should be given freedom to do whatever it takes to help students achieve and should share what works with the broader public school system so that all students benefit. In the early 1990s, a small group of educators and policymakers came together to develop the charter school model. Minnesota’s legislature passed the first charter law in 1991, and the first charter school opened in 1992.

How Do Charter Schools Work? Charter schools foster a partnership between parents, teachers, and students. They create an environment in which parents can be more involved, teachers are allowed to innovate, and students are provided the structure they need to learn.

The Wall Street Journal published the following article back in November of 2013. It details some of the labor struggles Charter Schools have faced (link).

Teachers Unions vs. Charter Schools - The Beginning With Children charter school in New York City announced that it will close next year because operating under union work rules has made it impossible to provide students with a decent education.

"Because the school converted from a traditional district school to a charter school in 2001, the board was bound by the [United Federation of Teachers] contract with the Department of Education," reports the New York Post. In a letter to parents notifying them of the decision, the board wrote, "We had to carry many of the burdens of being a DOE school, but we could not enjoy the benefits and flexibilities that charter status normally allows."

To understand how union work rules can impact the quality of a school, consider this passage from Steven Brill's "Class Warfare," in which he compares the teachers' contracts at Harlem Success Academy, a high-performing charter school in New York City, and a traditional public school that share the same building space and teach kids from the same socio-economic background.

"The Harlem Success teachers' contract drives home the idea that the school is about the children, not the grown-ups. It is one page, allows them to be fired at will, and defines their responsibilities no more specifically than that they must help the school achieve its mission. Harlem Success teachers are paid about 5 to 10 percent more than union teachers on the other side of the building who have their levels of experience.

"The union contract in place on the public school side of the building is 167 pages. Most of it is about job protection and what teachers can and cannot be asked to do during the 6 hours and 57.5 minutes (8:30 to about 3:25, with 50 minutes off for lunch) of their 179-day work year."

In 2010, 29 percent of the students at the traditional public school were reading and writing at grade level, and 34 percent were performing at grade level in math. At the charter school, the corresponding numbers were 86 percent and 94 percent.

What Transparent California adds to the mix here is information showing that in addition to their comparative academic successes, Charter Schools are also a lot more cost effective (link).


So how do Charter Schools stack up economically against Public Schools in the Pasadena Unified School District? The information on the first chart below is expanded beyond teachers and includes the impact of administration as a percentage of the overall payroll. Here charters have a much lower admin presence, whereas at traditional public schools the hit is far larger.


Or, to reverse that information, admin costs make up 60% of PUSD payroll costs, 29% at their Charter School counterparts. Something that allows charters to prioritize teaching. This next chart shows that teacher salaries are markedly different as well.


One of the more remarkable Charter School successes in the Pasadena area is Learning Works, run by Sierra Madre's own Mikala Rahn. NPR ran a great piece about Mikala's school called "Former Dropouts Push Others To Reach Finish Line," which you can link to here.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

39 comments:

  1. "The Harlem Success teachers' contract drives home the idea that the school is about the children, not the grown-ups. It is one page, allows them to be fired at will, and defines their responsibilities no more specifically than that they must help the school achieve its mission."

    Huh. So charter schools run like private industry rather than government, and because of that are more productive? Imagine.

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    1. Charters vs. public are a long and important debate. Each side has passionate and articulate champions:
      http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/02/01/kappan_raymond.html
      One of the best advocates for preserving public schools is Ravitch:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/books/review/reign-of-error-by-diane-ravitch.html?_r=0

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    2. If you combine the better results with the overall cost savings it is hard to argue with charter schools. Opening public education to marketplace pressures seems to have happy consequences.

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    3. Sometimes, 8:33.

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    4. The lower pay for teachers in charters reminds me of a conversation some years ago with an underpaid elementary teacher at a parochial school. She said that she'd rather teach at a school for less money as long as she could actually teach the kids the basics.

      She had done a few years at public school and all the special days / weeks / months' events left no classroom time.

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    5. The competition from charter schools and testing to actually measure if kids are learning are two factors that the NEA and other teachers' unions despise. That's why the unions hate No Child Left Behind, because of the testing.

      Please keep in mind that a majority of teachers work very hard to get kids learning in spite of the roadblocks the unions put in place.

      For some, it is much easier to do fluff teaching "how does that make you feel" crap than actually making sure they can do basic math.

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    6. Can't have Charter Schools. they might just expose the lousy education the "regular" public schools provide and then all parents will want them. And then what will we do with all those lousy teachers at the "regular" public schools? they are currently the useful idiots who contribute to the Unions so the Unions can contribute to the likes of Judy Chu and Chris Holden.

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    7. Precisely. It is always about the money. The kids are hostages.

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    8. Unfortunately, charters have turned out to be just like public schools - some are great and some are bad.

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    9. Yeah, schools are a crapshoot. But if they cost less money to run, then that is a plus.

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    10. Any time you can get more money to the classroom, its a good thing. Too bad Pasadena Unified School District doesn't do that.

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  2. More on the City Council meeting - I had to walk out because I couldn't take more of the ridiculous statements from Harabedian and Goss. I too think Cappocia was trying to work out a reasonable compromise, but the other two were having none of "reasonableness." Thank you yet again Delmar and Arazmendi, our shining stars, as well as the Planning Commissioners, Desai and the most articulate Freyerman-Hunt. If you haven't seen her in action, please attend a Planning Commission meeting or at least watch on TV. Out of town developer, "I want to raise my family in Sierra Madre, and we need all that (pick a huge number) space." Freyerman-Hunt, "Yeah, yeah. We've heard that one before." All of you who posted comments yesterday, or who were disgusted with Harabedian and Goss and their phantom residents who are gnashing their teeth at the thought of not being able to build their 8000 sq foot (no different than 6000 sq ft according to Goss) McMansion. It reminded me of my grandson who was afraid to sleep in his room around St Patrick's Day because he thought the leprecaun was hiding in there. That was a myth too.

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    1. I've also been thinking about that meeting, 7:38. What's struck me forcefully today is the hubris of Harabedian when he told the audience, the concerned residents who make the sacrifice to show up at a meeting no one wants to go to, that he had "tolerated" their applause, but wouldn't anymore. At a public meeting - it's not like they were throwing tomatoes, though he deserved that. It was simply applause to show support. Tolerate?

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    2. I think he realized at that moment that the was coming across as being something of an ass, and he was feeling vulnerable over the applause. John Buchanan used to try to get people he didn't agree with to quell their enthusiasm. Tuesday was an awful night for Harabedian. He was feeling it.

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    3. Harabedian had a great year as mayor. Then at his last meeting in the job he went and undid everything. Quite the crash and burn artist.

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    4. The soon to be former Mayor came in on a dodgey scheme as Mayor Pro Tem claiming he had the most election votes when he didn't. His performance last Tuesday just showed that, deep down, he's not a preservationist. Johnny, we hardly knew ye! But we do now.

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    5. More of an ambitious opportunist.

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    6. We will have to do all we can do to support Councilwomen Denise Delmar & Rachelle Arizmendi. They've both proven that they are dedicated to preservation, keeping spending down, and fighting the UUT tax increase crowd.

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    7. It appears that Johnny Process is more about Johnny than the process.

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    8. The garbage man's son. He is never too far from his roots.

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    9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    10. Kind of reminded me of a Thomas Wolfe book. But not in a good way.

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  3. Which States House The Most Sex Offenders Per Capita?
    http://www.vocativ.com/underworld/sex/sex-offenders-per-capita-per-state/

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    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    2. Somebody is angwy.

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    3. Who gives a rat's *ss?

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    4. "underworld" in a link about sex offenders pretty much sums it up.

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    5. "Annoying delays when posting comments is likely. Thank you for your patience and understanding."

      Sorry, Mod, tell your boss that you need to get back to The Tattler. Your readers await witty repartee.

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    6. They are making me work today. I am offended.

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    7. I got a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell!

      https://youtu.be/idO3VjT8sjk

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    8. "I got ants in my pants and I wanna dance"'- James Brown

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    9. We need a little more cowbell .....

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  4. "Easy, guys.. I put my pants on just like the rest of you - one leg at a time. Except, once my pants are on, I make gold records."

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    1. yea 20 years ago.....

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    2. Rap on, bro.

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    3. And get off my lawn

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  5. In one city back East, the teacher union thought they could do just as well as the private Charter schools. Not only did they fail, they failed miserably. There is nothing like private enterprise to make a good idea a success

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  6. Planning Commission meeting short and sweet. Both items approved.

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    Replies
    1. They deserve an early night.

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