Do public charter schools deliver results in a more cost-effective way compared to traditional public schools? That’s the question addressed by a recent research report from the University of Arkansas (PDF download). The answer, it turns out, is unequivocally yes.

Researchers examined eight cities, including Atlanta, for the 2013-2014 academic year. Looking at students in both traditional and charter schools, the research team compared funding levels with performance outcomes on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam. It turns out that—across all eight cities—students in charter schools performed better on these assessments even though the charter schools received less money.

Charter schools are public schools that have the flexibility to practice innovative approaches to improve academic achievement. Currently, there are 115 charter schools in Georgia and 32 charter systems that include 326 schools.

Specifically focusing on Atlanta charter schools, the University of Arkansas report found the following:

  • “After considering the per-pupil funding differences across the two sectors, Atlanta public charter schools produced an average of 2.16 more points on the NAEP reading assessment and 2.26 more points on the NAEP math exam for each $1,000 in funding than Atlanta [traditional public schools].”
  • “In Atlanta traditional public schools, average NAEP scores were 257 for reading and 272 for math, and per-pupil revenue was $16,429. In Atlanta public charter schools, average NAEP scores were 258 points for reading and 273 for math, and per-pupil revenue was $14,490.”

The report concludes that “public charter schools result in a bigger bang for fewer bucks than traditional public schools … Since educational resources are limited, charter schools look to be an especially attractive vehicle for delivering education to students more productively.”

A proposal (House Bill 787) currently pending in the Georgia General Assembly would authorize more funding for charter schools, bringing them into parity with funding for traditional public schools.

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