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Taxpayer Dollars at Work: D.C. School Edition


A recent report released by the Walton Family Foundation shows that charter schools in Washington, D.C., received $16,361 per student in FY 2011, compared with $29,145 spent per student at traditional public schools. Those amounts include federal, state, and local tax dollars as well as support from private foundations. As the Washington Post explained on Sunday, ”System schools do have higher costs because of special education, but those costs can’t account for the $13,000 disparity — which, the Post’s Lyndsey Layton reported, is the nation’s largest.”

Now, one would hope that all this extra money to traditional public schools is buying parents and students a better education. But it isn’t the case, as this piece from the Washington Post last year reports:

The District’s charter schools, which serve 41 percent of the city’s public school students, posted higher overall scores on the 2012 D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System than their counterparts in the traditional schools system, but their gains in math were smaller. Their reading proficiency rates, meanwhile, fell slightly. . . .

The city’s public charter schools posted a proficiency rate of about 55 percent in math, up a little more than 1 percentage point since last year.

But in reading, charter schools appear to have plateaued at about 49 percent, a number that has not risen significantly since 2009.

“We have to be honest and say the growth in reading has been smaller than we would like it,” said Brian W. Jones, chairman of the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board. “We can do better.”

He said that charter schools continue to outperform traditional public schools while serving a higher percentage of students from poverty.


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