Saturday, September 02, 2023

Charters Receive Far Less Money than Traditional Public Schools. They Do Better Anyway

Jack Elbaum

by Jack Elbaum, Sept. 2, 2023- If you thought charter schools received anywhere near the same amount of funding as traditional public schools, then think again.

A new, massive study from the University of Arkansas finds that “On average, charter schools across 18 cities in 16 states (...) receive about 30 percent or $7,147 (2020 dollars) less funding per pupil than traditional public schools.” Over the past two decades, this funding disparity has remained relatively stable.

The gaps are, predictably, more severe in some places than others. The study notes that “Atlanta has the largest percentage-based charter funding disparity (about 53 percent), while Camden has the largest disparity in dollars ($19,711). Houston has the smallest disparity in terms of percent (three percent) and dollars ($417).”

Importantly, the regression analysis run by the authors did not suggest differences in the proportion of students in poverty or English Language Learners are the reason for the disparity. However, it did find that after taking into account differences in the number of special needs students, the disparity dropped considerably—although it remained significant ($1,707).

Based on these data alone, it would not be unreasonable for one to expect that these charter schools had worse educational outcomes than their traditional public school counterparts.

The only issue is that this is not the case.

A recent study from Stanford University, for example, found that charter school students gain 16 days' worth of reading and six days of math per year relative to those in traditional public schools. These benefits were particularly pronounced among minority students who were also in poverty. Education Week reported that “Black charter students in poverty gained 37 days of learning in reading and 36 days in math over their counterparts in traditional public schools, and Hispanic students in poverty gained 36 days of reading and 30 days of math over their traditional public school peers.”

Economist Thomas Sowell’s 2020 book Charter Schools and Their Enemies also offers compelling data suggesting the efficacy of charter schools. He studied a set of charters and traditional public schools in New York City that served essentially identical populations. In many cases in the study, a charter school and traditional public school would even occupy the same building.

Nevertheless, the educational outcomes could not be more different. He found that only 10% of the traditional public schools had a majority of students passing at the “proficient” level on the mathematics exam, while 68% of charter schools did. Similarly, on the English exam, only 14% of the traditional public schools had a majority of students pass at the “proficient” level whereas the proportion was 65% for charter schools.

Funding Is Not What Determines Outcomes

This leaves us with a key insight: Funding is not what drives educational outcomes. Yes, it has become clear through considering the superior results of charter schools despite their relatively lower funding. But it is not the only reason we know this.

A 1997 literature review of over 400 studies found that “there is not a strong or consistent relationship between student performance and school resources.” Recent data also reveal that even though inflation-adjusted per-pupil education spending has risen by 245% since 1970, reading scores have risen by less than 1% and math scores have risen by 1.8%.

Additionally, some of the worst school districts in the country are also the best funded. Baltimore City Schools spends more than $21,000 per student and Chicago Public Schools spend almost $30,000 per student. Yet, those districts have at least a dozen schools each where not a single student is proficient in either math or reading.

Meanwhile, Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times recently documented an unprecedented improvement in Mississippi K-12 schools. Fourth graders in Mississippi moved from the bottom of the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) rankings to the middle and the state moved to the top when it came to kids coming from families in poverty. But, importantly, these results did not come as a result of increasing funding. In fact, Mississippi ranks 46th in spending per pupil.

Instead, as I noted in the Washington Examiner, “For an education system to flourish, it needs to stick to the fundamentals. Teaching reading well and setting high expectations go a long way. There is of course so much more schools are doing in order to excel, but much of it comes back to this basic idea.”

This is how Mississippi made its progress, it is how charter networks such as Success Academy flourish, and it is also just common sense. After all, a school can have all the resources in the world, but if it does not teach reading properly or actually hold students to high standards, then there is no reason to believe it will be successful.

It’s All about Incentives

Likely the defining difference between charters and traditional public schools, though, is the incentives associated with them. It is hard to overstate how far-reaching the consequences of this are.

In an interview for Charter Schools and Their Enemies, Sowell points out that education is treated wholly different than almost any other industry. Whereas a grocery store or summer camp can only continue to survive if they convince enough people that it is worth spending money there, traditional public schools have to convince nobody. The government simply forces a select group of people, based on their zip code, to attend one school or another. Consequently, whether that school is failing or succeeding, nothing changes as it pertains to attendance, and therefore its ability to continue operating. This is resolutely not the case with charter schools, which can only survive to the extent people actually want to attend them.

This sets up a situation where traditional public schools have no incentive to improve while charter schools must as a matter of survival. It should be no surprise, then, that the latter outperforms the former.

So how can we improve education outcomes?. The answer is to focus on the incentives. An education system built on choice and competition will reward effective schools and weed out ineffective ones. On the other hand, a system built on coercion and monopoly—like the current public school system—is a recipe for perpetual mediocrity.

Jack Elbaum was a Hazlitt Writing Fellow at FEE and is a junior at George Washington University. His writing has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The New York Post, and the Washington Examiner. You can contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Jack_Elbaum.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

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Friday, September 01, 2023

Lawmaker costs were more than $350K for Tennessee special session

 By Jon Styf | The Center Square, Aug 30, 2023 - Tennessee’s special session finished Tuesday with an expense of $351,476 to bring lawmakers to the capital for six days of the session on public safety and four bills passed.

Each day, it cost the state $58,576 in stipends and mileage for lawmakers, according to numbers provided by Office of Legislative Administration Director Connie Ridley.

Those expenses are not all-encompassing and do not address additional security or legal fees associated with the session which finished with verbal sparring and a shoulder bump between House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, on Tuesday.

The special session resulted in four bills passed and that are headed to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk soon and a dozen others that were discussed in the House that could then be discussed further in regular session starting in January.

The bills that passed included an appropriations bill and bills eliminating taxes on handgun safety devices, requiring a 72-hour communication timeline for criminal court proceedings to the Tennessee Bureau of Information and a bill creating a statewide report on human trafficking.

“We have made some headway this week – four of our bills passed,” Lee said in a statement after the session ended. “Significant funding was focused on issues that matter to public safety. We have improved the background check system, attacked human trafficking, improved access for safe storage, and funded mental health resources across the state. We made progress.”

The House, meanwhile, passed a series of bills that were not taken up by the Senate.

Those included bills on a new centralized statewide case management system for shared court reporting, one requiring TennCare providers to pay for the same level of mental health services and treatment as other insurance carriers for alcoholism and drug dependence and one to create a school safety alert grant program with $90 million in funding.

The House also passed bills on “duty to warn’ of the release of mental health patients, a bill allowing private schools to develop school safety plans including firearms, a bill increasing the penalties for stalking violations, a bill expanding the state’s school resource officer program and a bill where school district’s without a memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement can be assigned an school resource officer.

Lee was criticized for not being visible during the special session.

“We all share the same goals,” he said in a statement. “We want our children to be safe, we want our streets to be safe, and we want our neighborhoods to be safe. As difficult as it is, it is possible to make progress. So, we should be hopeful.

“There is no one, perfect solution, but we should recognize the significance of this special session. We made progress in public safety, and we elevated a conversation about public safety that will continue, and that’s important.”

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18-state coalition backs Tennessee in anti-drag law ruling appeal

Promo for Nashville Pride festival:
The Nashville Pride Pageant is the kick start to Pride Season
 By Jon Styf | The Center Square, Aug 30, 2023 -  Eighteen states have joined to file an amicus brief supporting Tennessee in its appeal of a ruling on its drag show law.

The amicus brief comes as Tennessee is appealing a ruling against the law to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The law was blocked by a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee after it was contested by Friends of George’s.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson led the coalition that also includes Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

“Protecting children from obscene and lewd behavior is not a new idea. We need to let kids be kids, and the state has legal authority to ensure their protection,” Wilson said. “I believe the Court wrongly ruled against the law, and I’m happy to lead a coalition of support for the law on appeal.”

A federal judge ruled the law to limit public drag show performances as an unconstitutional restriction on freedom of speech and ruled the restrictions were unconstitutional vague.

The law bans drag performances from public property and requires the performances to only take place in age-restricted venues.

The outlawed performances are those that include “nudity, sexual excitement, sexual conduct, excess violence or sadomasochistic abuse.”

The states’ amicus brief argues states do have the authority to restrict performances.

“… The district court disregarded decades of precedent that respects the role of legislatures—and state legislatures in particular—in shaping public policy,” the brief states. “The Tennessee legislature did not act with an impermissible purpose, and the Court’s holding to the contrary undermines basic principles of separation of powers. The judgment of the district court should be reversed.”

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Meet Russ Pulley, Tuesday Sept. 5th

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Constitution Day Celebration, Sunday, Sept. 17th


To purchase tickets, follow this link

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Tennessee Republican Assembly meets Tomorrow, Sept 16th. Guest is Gino Bulso, TN Rep. District 61.


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Thursday, August 31, 2023

Now that is one ugly drag queen

by Rod Williams, August 31, 2023-
The New Republic today had an article about how Republicans are passing all of these anti-drag queen laws and how they are being struck down in the courts. That pretty much sums up the content of the article. In fact, the title of the piece encapsulates the whole thing, "The GOP’s Drag Bans Aren’t Meant to Be Good Laws. They’re Meant to Cause Chaos." I think there is some truth to what the article says. 

It seems to me cultural liberals want to push the envelope of acceptable contemporary community standards of normality and decency and move the nation toward a more libertine society and acceptance of deviancy, and conservatives push back and resist. Also, however, it seems conservatives keep trying to get people riled up and keep them sending in the campaign contributions.  Both sides want to keep stirring the pot.

I find the chemical castration of children and genital mutilation abhorrent. Call it "gender affirmation care" all you want; it should not be permitted. Also, I am annoyed by a person using the plural pronoun "they."  A person can refer to himself with that pronoun all he wants, I won't. One single person is not "they." That being said however, I just can't get too upset about some things that rile a lot of conservatives. I wish Republicans were talking more about the national debt and less about drag queens. 

It seems to me cultural conservatives could let some things slide instead of always ready to fight.  America is still more puritanical than most of the Western world and the tide is running against that puritanism. Anyone who has visited Europe and seen topless women featured in advertisements on the side of buses or visited a beach realizes America is an outlier. I am not really alarmed or frightened by the change. We have been slowly moving in a more libertine direction for decades. The way women dress would have gotten them arrested in previous decades; now no one bats an eye.  I understand the desire to hang on to the old morality, but I am not necessarily on board. This brings us to drag shows.

When states starting passing laws to regulate drag shows, I doubted they would pass legal muster.  After all, it took years and years to make strip clubs boring and it has been a very long time since a book was banned. The First Amendment's freedom of expression makes regulating public morality very difficult. Also, drag is an ancient art form. From Milton Berle and Bob Hope in drag in the 50's to Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire, drag has been part of contemporary entertainment. And, quite frankly, I see nothing alarming about some guy dressed up like Dolly Parton and lip-syncing. And, when I have seen it, it was not lewd. Weird, but not lewd. 

Liberal critics mischaracterized the law in Tennessee from the very first.  We never "banned" drag shows.  The Tennessee law prohibiting drag performances in public spaces if the performances were sexually suggestive. Drag shows in nightclubs were never threatened.  "Sexually suggestive," is hard to define, however. I have seen some drag shows and I don't get it. Mostly, I find them a drag.

I do have concern about "drag queen story time" in public libraries and if it happened in a city where I served in the local city council, I would vote to cut funding for the libraries and let it be known that our city will not permit such. I don't like adults normalizing their deviancy among children. Really, however, drag queen story hour in public libraries is still quite rare. 

Look at the above picture of a story-time drag queen. The caption says, "A child listens as drag queen Brigitte Bandit reads a book during a drag time story hour at the Little Gay Shop fashion accessories store in Austin, Texas, on August 26." This is in a public space, open and accessible to the general public, I assume, but it is not a publicly operated space; it is not a library. I doubt any parents just wonders into Little Gay Shop with their child and does not know what they are doing. I am for trusting parents to make decisions for their child.  If parents want to let their child listen to a drag queen read a story, then that should be their prerogative. While we as a society need to protect children from exploitation and abuse, parents are the ones primarily responsible for relaying values to children. I doubt many people go to a Pride parade not knowing what it is and if they take their child and some guy is dressed like Dolly Parton lip-synching, I doubt it harms the child. In any event, it should be up to the parent to decide if that is appropriate entertainment.  Some parents monitor what movies their children watch on Netflix; some don't.  I don't want to make that the government's job. 

In looking at the picture above, the first thing I thought was, damn, that is one ugly drag queen; the child we be traumatized. 

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Nashville Banner Mayoral Interview: Alice Rolli

Alice Rolli talks with the Nashville Banner's Demetria Kalodimos ahead of the Sept. 14 runoff election for Nashville mayor. 

[Interview transcript]

Well, I was thumbing through the Hume-Fogg Yearbook. 

Oh, good! 

Tell me, tell me about Alice in high school. 

Yeah, well, Alice in high school was two blocks away from here. Gosh, I guess I got there in 1993. Nashville downtown was a really different place. There was a little corner market there. The Classic Cat was behind us. You remember that? But Alice in high school, I was on the track and the cross country team. I was the manager of the girls basketball team. I was on the math club and the computer science team. I went away in high school for a year and was a page in the United States Congress, came back and got to serve as the chief justice of our student court. So yeah, Alice in high school, and actually part of this campaign has been so great, one of my former teachers and basketball coach, retired teacher, near the beginning of the campaign sent me $1,800. And I called him and I was like, ‘Coach, what are you doing?’ And he said, ‘I feel like if anyone can fix this, if anyone can bring people together, it’s you and we are all in.’ And when your former teachers, the former principal of the school, Dr Whitefield, her daughter contacted me after watching a show and said, ‘We’re so excited you’re running.’ So I’ve gotten actually a couple little high school memories here. It’s been a lot of fun. 

Was teaching your first job? (Read more)

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Sunday, August 27, 2023

How to help the Alice Rolli campaign for mayor.

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Davidson County GOP supports Russ Pulley for at-large, Davette Blalock for District 4, and Jeff Eslick for District 11

 From The Davidson County Republican Party:

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