Remember how the charter school industry was going to be a lean, mean, educatin' machine. That is repeatedly turning out to be not particularly true.
Take this recent study from New Orleans, home of the charter industry's greatest opportunity, the hurricane-fueled chance to set up a chartertastic free-for-all. The ways in which this is failing are legion and oft-reported. For the moment we're just going to focus on this singular failure.
From a report on the study published by The Lens, a NOLA news site:
Overall, New Orleans schools — the vast majority of which are charters — spent $1,358 more per pupil on operating expenses, or 13 percent, than a control group in the 2013-14 school year.
Administrative spending increased $699 per student, or 66 percent, compared to the control group. Meanwhile, instructional spending dropped by $706 per student, or about 10 percent.
In other words, taxpayers are paying for far more administration in their schools than they would have been had the district stayed on centralized, single district.
This is not a shock. If you are having trouble making ends meet with one home, you don't fix the problem by buying a second one. And you can't operate several schools with hte money you previously used to operate just one. And if you like this idea couched in proper econo-talk, try this quote from Christian Buerger of the Education Research Alliance
If you decentralize an entire district, there’s a loss in economies of scale. And the study found that despite claims that charters would cut through all the red tape, they spent far more on red tapery. Charters are also fond of hiring contractors for various tasks, another not-very-cost-effective method of operating.
And that's before we even get to the specific issue of what these new layers of fat, happy administrators are being paid. The examples in charterdom are legion. Eva Moskowitz is paid more to run her NYC charter chain than the head of the entire NYC public school system is paid. Just today this week, we get this story from Los Angeles wherein the head of a small charter chain is paid more than the chief of the entire Los Angeles public school system. In a charter choice system, we routinely take one well-paid school superintendent and add several more even-better-paid school chiefs. With a charter choice system, you get more administrators, and they are often paid more. It's like replacing your Yugo with a fleet of Lexus.
This is neither lean nor mean, but it's attractively profitable if you're thinking of starting your own charter school.