Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws allowing for the existence of public charter schools. Although Kentucky enacted a charter school law in 2017, the state does not have any public charter schools because a funding mechanism currently does not exist. How would access to public charter schools in Kentucky affect students and their communities?
This report summarizes the state of scientific evidence on public charter schools.
The preponderance of the rigorous evidence suggests that access to public charter schools generally benefits students by increasing academic achievement and educational attainment. A smaller body of literature tends to suggest that access to public charter schools could benefit society by improving civic outcomes and safety while reducing crime and taxpayer costs.
Applying cautious estimates from the evidence on each outcome to the population of students currently enrolled in district-run public schools in Louisville, Kentucky, this report finds that access to public charter schools could provide the following citywide economic benefits:
- $138 million in economic benefits from higher lifetime earnings associated with increases in academic achievement.
- $54 million from additional high school graduates.
- $6 million from reductions in the social costs associated with crimes.
- $13 million each year from reductions in public education spending.
These potential economic benefits should not be combined and should be assessed separately since they overlap. For example, higher academic achievement increases the likelihood of high school graduation, and receiving a high school diploma reduces the likelihood of incarceration.