INDIANAPOLIS — Charter schools in Indiana received about $1,203 less per-pupil funding in 2017 than traditional schools despite an injection of money from the state to fight the discrepancy, according to a report presented Wednesday to the Indiana Board of Education.
But charter schools outperformed a sampling of traditional public schools in 2016 and 2017 based on Indiana’s A-F accountability system.
A greater percentage of charter schools, 20.3 percent, earned an A rating in 2017, compared to 11.4 percent for traditional public schools.
Comparing ISTEP scores, brick-and-mortar charters narrowly edged out traditional public schools.
“In 2017, compared to like traditional public schools, students enrolled in brickand- mortar charter schools demonstrated slightly greater student growth in grades 4 through 8 and significantly greater academic growth in high school,” researcher Ron Sandlin, Indiana State Board of Education senior director of school performance and transformation, wrote in the report.
“Students enrolled in hybrid charter schools and virtual charter schools lagged behind their peers in more traditional classroom settings,” he wrote. Hybrid schools combine online instruction with brickand- mortar settings allowing for self-pacing in instruction. The report looked at four virtual or online charter schools, which receive the least perpupil funding from the state.
The report, which is to be conducted every five years, received criticism by the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA). “There’s nothing new in this report,” ISTA President Teresa Meredith said in a statement. “The accountability system is rigged in favor of many of the charter schools cited, as they are afforded the privilege by the Legislature of using only growth. If all schools were graded only on growth, traditional public schools would consistently outperform charters.
“As for virtual charter schools, the consistent ‘F’ grades they all receive is abysmal by any methodology,” Meredith said.
When breaking down the assessments for English language arts and math in grades 3 through 8, traditional public school students outperformed charter students. Breaking those scores down by race, white students in traditional public schools did better than their peers in brick-and-mortar charters.
Students with special needs fared better in charters than in traditional public settings.
The report compares charter schools to public schools within the 15 school corporations with the largest enrollments, including Indianapolis, Gary, Anderson and Greater Clark County schools.
In 2017, Indiana’s tuitionfree charter school system was ranked number one in the country by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The report looks at 93 charter schools, including 67 brick-and-mortar institutions and 12 adult high schools, in 2016-17.
Overseen by a non-profit organizer or authorizer, such as Ball State University or the city of Indianapolis, public charters are required to administer statewide assessments and receive an A-to-F performance grade, as do public schools.
The report notes that 23 charters closed between 2011 and 2017, including 14 authorized through Ball State University.
“The part that concerned me was the amount that have closed,” said State Schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, who serves on the Board of Education. “That list was quite extensive, and how do you hold those authorizers somewhat responsible?”
She added, “I think it’s good to monitor that, to see where the performance is. I know they’re not all going to be A’s and I hope they’re not all going to be F’s. But that’s what we would say about traditional public schools as well. I think it’s good. It’s a healthy report.”
The board may look at ways that it can hold authorizing organizers accountable.
The report notes that the funding gap has decreased since 2014, when researchers found that charter schools in Indianapolis received 39 percent less per-pupil funding.
That analysis was similar to a 2011 report finding that charters throughout the state received 34 percent less per-pupil funding than traditional schools. Discrepancies led to the Indiana General Assembly passing a program that offers $500 per-pupil grants to qualifying schools to offset the cost of capital projects, technology and transportation- related expenses.
Those expenses for traditional schools are typically covered by local property tax levies which charters do not receive. Virtual schools receive $2,509 less perpupil than traditional public schools, according to an analysis by the education department.
Overall, the report shows that total per-pupil funding for traditional public schools was $8,746 in fiscal year 2017 compared to brick-and-mortar charter schools at $7,543, “hybrid” charter schools at $7,787, virtual charters at $6,237 and charter schools for special population at $8,468.
The report finds that charter schools outperformed traditional public schools in 2016 and 2017, based on Indiana’s A-F accountability system.