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Spending Blind: The Failure of Policy Planning in California Charter School Funding

When California legislators first created charter schools, their intent was clear. They sought to empower small groups of educators to launch a wide variety of innovative start-ups that, by experimenting with new approaches to education, would develop superior models fit to meet the needs of the diverse students that make up state’s school population.

However, because legislators’ vision for charter schools has not been incorporated into funding formulas, the hundreds of millions of dollars spent annually on charter facilities have not created the hoped-for incubator of innovation and continual improvement. While some charter schools have proved exemplary, much of the industry has become dominated by the same types of organizations legislators had sought to reform: large chains of schools where materials, methods, and evaluation are centrally dictated and teachers lack the power to set the curriculum; Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) that replicate a single model over and over again with little variation; and schools whose quality of education is no better than that of nearby public schools, and who do not serve to spur improvements in the wider system.

Download NEA's complete charter schools report.