Wolf, P. J., Cheng, A., Batdorff, M., Maloney, L., May, J. F., & Speakman, S. T. (2014). The productivity of public schools. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas, Department of Education Reform.

People often wish to know how much “bang they get for their buck.” This calculation is often referred to as productivity and is measured either as cost effectiveness or return on investment (ROI). This report represents the first-ever national study tying funding to student achievement and measuring the productivity of public charter schools relative to traditional public schools. It was crafted by six researchers with more than 70 years of collective experience in the field of public finance and school funding.

Using school revenue data compiled as part of a previous report, Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands, as well as student achievement data from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) and CREDO at Stanford University, the researchers find that public charter schools are more cost effectiveness and deliver a higher ROI both on average and in each of the 28 states included in the study.

The average cost effectiveness advantage of charters relative to traditional public schools is 17 NAEP points in math and 16 NAEP points in reading, per $1000 of revenue. The average cost ROI advantage for charters is an almost 3 percent higher return per dollar invested if a student spends one year in a public charter school and a 19 percent higher return per dollar invested if a student spends half of their K-12 education (6.5 years) in a charter school.

View States Data on Public Charter Schools Productivity and Funding Disparities (For better viewing, click the fullscreen button.) 
States are colored by their Letter Grade for Charter Funding Disparity.

Mouse over a state to learn more about

  • Public Charter School Productivity
  • State Funding Disparity and Percentage Variance
  • Grade for Charter Funding Disparity (middle image)
  • Improved or Worsened Charter School Funding Since FY2007