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A Think Twice Review of:

Fiscal and Education Spillovers from Charter School Expansion

Think Twice - Oct 04, 2018

Publisher/Think Tank - School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Author(s) - Matt Ridley and Camille Terrier

The paper reaches three key findings. First, due to a subsidy provided by Massachusetts law, per-pupil expenditures in the impacted public schools increased as charter schools expanded. Second, these districts appeared to respond to competitive pressures from charter schools by moving funding to inputs directly related to instruction. Third, test scores in math and English language arts in the existing public schools increased very slightly. All three of these impacts, however, disappear after six years of initial charter school expansion.

Reviewer(s) - Clive Belfield

The paper affirms a two-part consensus from past studies on the economic and academic impacts of charter schooling. First, the flows of public funds to charter and public schools are complex, idiosyncratic, and variable. These features make economic evaluation of charter schooling very difficult. Second, the academic influence of competition between charter schools and public schools is small and, in this case, positive. This second finding suggests that expanding charter schools, at least under the relatively restrictive conditions that existed in Massachusetts, will have a benign effect on the overall education system. However, because of funding complexities identified in the first finding, it is extremely difficult to determine how cost-effective or equitable such expansions might be.