NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 26, 2007

In July, the Chicago-based, nonpartisan Civic Federation released a comprehensive study showing Illinois charter schools do not place undue financial burdens on their host school districts and do not hamper districts' ability to manage finances.

The 112-page assessment focused on three Illinois charter schools outside the Chicago Public School (CPS) system that had weathered a time of financial hardship for their host districts.  During the 2003-04 school year, on which the study focused, the three schools relieved their host districts of 1.3 to 3 percent of the district's students while tapping only 0.9 to 2.4 percent of their host districts' operating budgets.

The Civic Federation authors found:

  • The Illinois charter schools studied provided school choice without significantly burdening district budgets.
  • The diversion of district funds to charter schools did not compromise districts' ability to manage financial obligations.
  • The state's funding per pupil and the growth or diminishment of property tax revenue had a stronger effect on the revenues available than enrollment growth or decline.

The Civic Federation's study agrees with 2005 research from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, "Charter School Funding: Inequity's Next Frontier," which showed Illinois charter schools received 23 percent less funding than district schools--at the time, $6,779 per pupil, compared to the district schools' $8,801 per pupil, a gap of $2,023.

The Civic Federation views charter schools "as an important initiative for public education," the study's authors wrote, "not only because charter schools provide school choice for parents and students, but also because charter schools offer an alternative model for the funding and governance of public schools."

Civic Federation President Lawrence Msall said charter schools' freedom from specific state mandates is paramount to their success.

Source: Fran Eaton, "Civic Group Finds Illinois Charter Schools Don't Drain Resources," Heartland Institute, October 1, 2007.


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