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Putting dollars before scholars? Evidence from for-profit charter schools in Florida

John Singleton

Economics of Education Review, 2017, vol. 58, issue C, 43-54

Abstract: This paper compares for- and non-profit management of charter schools in Florida using a unique dataset combining enrollment and student proficiency data with the annual independent financial audits filed by all charter schools. Comparisons reveal that independent for- and non-profit charter schools locate in similar markets and serve similar student bodies, whereas for-profits belonging to a network locate in lower income, denser, and more Hispanic areas. Bearing out the concerns of parents and policymakers, regression estimates indicate that, among independent charters, for-profits spend less per pupil on instruction and achieve lower student proficiency gains. By contrast, among charter schools belonging to a network, for-profits spend approximately 11% less per pupil, but expenses on student instruction are not being cut. The estimates, which control for differences across schools in student composition and other characteristics, imply that an equivalent level of per pupil expenses purchases about 0.03σ higher student proficiency at network for-profit charter schools.

Date: 2017
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DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2017.03.004

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