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Argument: Charter schools have a poor return on investment

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Scott Elliott. "The case against charter schools in Dayton". Dayton Daily. November 12, 2005 - If charter schools are about free enterprise, markets and bringing business sense to the world of education, then I’ve got three words that the proponents should consider: return on investment.

Last year, Ohio spent $424 million on about 250 charter schools statewide. In Dayton alone, the cost was about $45 million on 33 charter schools. So what did we get for our money?

Statewide, 71 percent of charter schools were rated in “academic emergency,” the lowest rating category.

In Dayton, no charter schools were rated excellent or effective — the top two rating categories. Many Dayton charters, about 39 percent, got no rating for a variety of reasons, while another 40 percent were rated in academic emergency.

And this is part of a continuing pattern.

An annual analysis by the Dayton Daily News beginning in 1999 showed charters, collectively, have never outperformed the city’s public school system. And underperforming Dayton Public Schools is a challenge. During this time, the city school district fell to worst rated in the state — last out of 611 school districts!

Let’s look more closely at Dayton’s charter schools. There are 33 charter schools here. The district actually has fewer schools now — just 28. How do Dayton’s charters look? Well, there are a handful of very good ones. A few are very low performing. And most of them are in the middle with generally low end test performance compared the average Ohio school.

Funny, you know what that sounds like? It sounds a lot like the school district. The district also has a few very good schools, a few way down at the bottom and most in the middle, but comparatively low achieving.

So for $41 million what have we done in Dayton but simply spend a lot of money to replicate what we already had, with slightly worse test performance?

"Reining in Charter Schools". New York Times (Editorial). May 10, 2006 - "Edison's fortunes show that there is no cheap way to rescue failing schools and that the prospect of a swift turnaround and explosive educational progress was a mirage all along. The only way to improve public education is to provide every child with a bright, well-trained teacher and an orderly, well-run school. That tends to be labor-intensive -- and expensive -- and may never be profitable on the scale that the stock market requires."

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