Fiscal Explainer: Texas Charter School Funding Analysis
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Policy Brief

Fiscal Explainer: Texas Charter School Funding Analysis

Between 2015 and 2019, the inflation-adjusted funding gap between public charter schools and traditional public schools grew by about 36 percent—from $596 per pupil to $813 per pupil.

Do Texas’ public charter schools receive more or less funding than public school districts? The following analysis of this oft-debated topic summarizes the state’s school finance system and highlights key revenue and trend data that identify differences in public charter funding allocations. This analysis finds that:

  • Public charters receive about $813 less state and local funding per pupil than public school districts, on average, representing a per-pupil funding disparity of 7 percent.
  • The primary driver of this overall disparity is facilities revenue. On average, public school districts raise $1,505 per pupil from local I&S (interest and sinking) dollars and also receive $105 per pupil in state debt funding. In comparison, public charters aren’t eligible for I&S dollars and receive an average of $196 per pupil in facilities support from the state.
  • On average, public charters generate about $692 per pupil more in M&O
    (maintenance and operations) dollars, which is likely driven by differences in how the small and mid-sized district allotment is calculated. However, this amount falls well short of bridging the revenue gap caused by facilities funding.
  • Between 2015 and 2019 the inflation-adjusted funding gap grew by about 36 percent—from $596 per pupil to $813 per pupil.
  • Regression analyses indicate that differences in several cost factors, including student demographics, do not explain the difference in funding between public charters and public school districts.
  • On average, public charters operating in Texas’ metro areas receive fewer dollars per pupil than public school districts operating in metro areas.
  • Public charters serve about 5.8 percent of Texas’ public education students in ADA (average daily attendance) and receive about 5.4 percent of state and local education dollars— $3.138 billion out of about $58.156 billion.

Reason Foundation’s data dashboard allows users to evaluate these trends, including statewide and local comparisons for several public school districts.

Full Fiscal Explainer: Texas Charter School Funding Analysis  

The interactive data dashboard is available here: Texas Charter School Funding Analysis

You can also find an infographic on Texas charter school funding here: Infographic – The Texas Charter Funding Gap