March 11, 2021

More Learning Per Dollar Than Traditional Schools
Public charter schools prove more cost effective and yield a greater return on investment than traditional public schools in seven cities, according to a new report by a research team based at the University of Arkansas. "Making it Count: The Productivity of Public Charter Schools in Seven U.S. Cities," focuses on Camden; Denver; Indianapolis; Shelby County; New Orleans; San Antonio; and Washington, D.C. On average, charter schools in all seven locations produced higher student achievement gains than traditional schools, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (a.k.a., “the Nation’s Report Card”). In reading, charters averaged 5.92 points higher per $1,000 funded than traditional schools, making charter schools 43 percent more cost-effective in reading. In math, charters averaged 6.26 points higher per $1,000 funded, also making them 43 percent more cost effective in math, researchers said. The results come even as the funding disparity between charter and traditional schools has in some places reached a record high of 33 percent. The report also found that charter schools generate greater lifetime earnings per student than traditional schools. On average, each dollar invested in a student's schooling in traditional public schools yields $5.46 in lifetime earnings. Researchers found the same dollar invested in a charter school student yields $8 in lifetime earnings.

To measure cost effectiveness and ROI, the researchers matched performance data from the Nation’s Report Card and research findings from CREDO at Stanford University. CREDO's rigorous evaluations carefully control for student background factors that affect test scores, yielding reliable estimates of the causal impact of public charter schools on student achievement. The funding study spanned the 2018-2019 school year. Researchers Find Charter Schools More Cost Effective Across Seven U.S. Cities, The University of Arkansas, February 24, 2021


Before the First One Opens, It Paves the Way for More
West Virginia in 2019 became the most recent state to permit charter schools, but none are yet operating there. The 2019 legislation limited public charter school openings to three per year, and made county boards of education the sole authorizers for charter school applicants. Frustrated by the slow pace of getting public charter schools up and running, the legislature has now sent Governor Jim Justice a bill that: (1) creates a board appointed by the Governor to authorize and govern charter schools; and (2) allows for as many as 10 new public charter schools each year.

Dr. John Treu, president of the West Virginia Academy, plans to open West Virginia’s first charter school, most likely based in Morgantown. Treu’s plan is to begin with grades 2-8 and then expand to K-12, offering “a more focused educational experience toward academics.” John Lynch, West Virginia Charter School Bill Heads to Governor’s Desk,, March 3, 2021; Anthony Conn, West Virginia Could Expand Charter School Capacity Despite Not Having One Established Yet, WCHS Eyewitness news, March 4, 2021

Time Will Tell if Legislature Bites
Arizona education advocates are calling on lawmakers address the disconnect between school district construction bonding and student attendance patterns, which has contributed to a glut of underutilized space in many districts — even while excellent district and charter schools with high parental demand and waitlists remain starved for facilities. They say the answer is revising the state’s 1980 school funding formula to recognize that public charter schools now serve approximately 20 percent of the state’s public-school students and lead the state in enrollment growth. Advocates are pushing for a school finance system that would collect all school taxes and distribute them on an equitable, per-student basis according to a single statewide formula. The tax obligation for education would be shared equitably among taxpayers, and revenues would be allocated to the public school that students attend, rather than to a local taxing authority. Inequities for taxpayers and schools alike would be minimized by replacing district bonds with a system of increased state funding. They say districts carrying facility debt could retain a local tax for the purpose of retiring preexisting debt during a transition period. Dr. Matthew Ladner, Time to Replace Grandpa’s Oldsmobile and Arizona’s School Finance Formula, Chamber News, March 8, 2021

At Least Five New Schools Opening Next Year
Enrollment is underway for 600 kindergarten through seventh graders hoping to attend CIVICA Nevada Career & Collegiate Academy’s new school on the city’s north side beginning in August. CIVICA is among several new Las Vegas-area public charter schools slated to open next school year. Others are Las Vegas Collegiate Charter School, Sage Collegiate Public Charter School and Eagle Charter Schools of Nevada. Last week, the state’s charter authority conditionally approved TEACH Las Vegas, which also aims to open in August.

As for CIVICA’s new North Las Vegas school, it will be part of a network that includes a campus in Florida, as well as one in Colorado that will open in August. The local campus plans to add one grade level each year until it reaches 12th. Julie Wootton-Greener, New Charter School Will Open in August in North Las Vegas, Las Vegas Review-Journal, February 26, 2021


"Automatic Decrease" Gutted
A bill to freeze charter facilities funding sailed through the Idaho House without a single “no” vote. It is expected to fare similarly well in the state Senate. The bill would protect charter schools from cuts to building funds if Idaho were to slash education spending. In 2013, the state created a Charter School Facilities Fund, distributed in a per-student formula. But the fund had a catch: If the state cuts education spending, the charter school fund is reduced automatically. House Bill 264 would essentially freeze the current facilities fund formula, removing that automatic decrease. Idaho spends about $10 million a year on charter school facilities. Sami Edge, Kevin Richert, Clark Corbin, Legislative Roundup, 3.8.21: House Passes Optional Union Negotiations Bill,, march 8, 2021
Opinion Ends Three-Year Court Battle
Reversing course from a decision last year, a divided appeals court last week ruled charter schools are entitled to a cut of the tax revenues that Palm Beach County voters approved in 2018 for traditional public schools. The 7-4 ruling by Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal said the wording in a referendum that excluded charter schools from receiving a share of increased property tax revenues violated state law, and that the language is "severable" - meaning that it can be disregarded. Dissenting judges lambasted the majority decision as an act of "judicial hocus pocus," but Palm Beach County’s public charter schools will still receive funds for school safety equipment, to hire additional school police, and to fund mental health professionals, art and music instruction, and so forth. Florida Charter Schools Win Tax Fight, FOX 35, February 24, 2021

Approaching Charter School Investing Like a "21st Century Economist"
A nation that focuses primarily on GDP as an indicator of economic health leaves itself vulnerable to missed opportunities in the social justice and environmental sustainability arenas – to its eventual peril. That’s the argument put forth by economists who advocate for “doughnut economies” in the post-pandemic era, and it raises interesting applicability in the charter school investment sector as well. Investors who focus like a laser on their investment schools’ financial health, without monitoring other activities (like academic performance, student equity, and so on) may be missing the “dough” of a doughnut economy, and unwittingly exposing themselves to unnecessary risk. Read more here about the trend toward measuring that which adds meaning and dignity to society.  The author is School Improvement Partnership’s intern, Dominic De Leo, who is working on the School Improvement Partnership Database with financial, operating and academic metrics on every charter school - and charter school borrower - in the country. 
Fast, Accurate and Efficient
Ever struggle with finding current information on charter schools or charter school bonds?  Searching multiple department of education websites, charter school authorizer portals, EMMA and other sources is time consuming, and much of the data is locked in PDFs or other nondigital forms. The fragmentation of data sources and limited digitization make charter school research labor intensive, while comparisons across large numbers of schools is prohibitive. This can leave institutional investors, underwriters, municipal advisors, and other market participants concerned they might not have the complete picture.  

Until now.  School Improvement Partnership has created the SIP Database, aggregating financial, operating and academic data on all charter school and charter schools bonds in the country. Subscribers utilize the SIP Database for portfolio monitoring, business development, research, and fair valuation of charter school bonds.  Please email Alan Wohlstetter at for a complimentary demonstration. 
School Improvement Partnership improves transparency and accountability in the charter school bond market. As continuing disclosure agent for more than 40 schools in six states, we enhance the form and content of secondary market information for charter school bond investors. On behalf of such investors, School Improvement Partnership performs comprehensive evaluations of charter school borrowers in transition - both pre-investment and post-investment. Please view our website or call us at 215.854.6322.
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