There are really very few secrets when it comes to school funding in Ohio.  The formulas may be complicated and confusing, but if you know where to look, it’s possible to track down all of the numbers that comprise the funds going to school districts and charter schools – most of them on the Ohio Department of Education website.

One of the best, and most comprehensive sources, is an awesome spreadsheet the state puts out called the “Bridge Report”.  The report for last school year was posted this summer, and for the first time it included a count of the specific number of charter school students from each school district in the Ohio.  This new information, along with the total amount of state funding that follows those students, provides us easy access to compare the amount of per pupil state funding for each school district compared to the state per pupil funding for those students who leave for charter schools.

The Bridge Report spreadsheet is a work of statistical art containing 616 rows and 46 columns (a delightful 28,336 cells) full of information about the funding of school districts in Ohio.  If you want to download the full spreadsheet in all its glory, you can download it at the Ohio Department of Education website (select June 2013 #2).

As we already reported, 99% of Ohio’s school districts lose students to charter schools and of those that do, 95% lose more money per pupil than they actually receive from the state.

In short, here’s how money flows from a district to a charter school.  A school district is given an amount from the state based on the total number of students that live in the district’s boundaries.  Then, for each student who leaves that district for a charter school, the state takes money away from that district and transfers it directly to the charter.  The nice thing about the Bridge Report spreadsheet is that it skips all of the various formulas and provides us with a relatively succinct summary of these funding amounts.  We just needed to add in a few columns and calculations to arrive at the per pupil amounts that districts receive from the state and the per pupil amounts that charters are paid for those same students when they leave the district to enroll in a charter school.

Let’s explain what you are looking at in the embedded spreadsheet below:

  • Column A: District name
  • Column B: District county (included because some districts share the same name)
  • Column C: Total ADM (Average Daily Membership) – this represents the total number of students that reside within a school district’s boundaries (decimals are because of student mobility)
  • Column D: The number of students who have left the district to attend a charter school
  • Column E: The average amount per pupil that is transferred from the school district’s state funding to charter schools (calculated by dividing the total funds transferred to charters by the total number of students going to charters)
  • Column F: The average amount of per pupil funding for those students in the district that are not going to charter schools (calculated by dividing the state funds remaining with the district – not transferred to charters – by the number of students who have not enrolled in charters)
  • Column G: The difference in per pupil funding between the school district and the charter schools pulling students from that district (comparing columns E and F).  A positive dollar amount means that the charter school received more money per pupil than the school district and the figure represents the amount that each charter school student took away in state funding over those students who did not transfer out of the district to a charter school.  A negative dollar amount (in red) means that the school district received more money per pupil than did the charter schools that enrolled students away from that district.
  • The school districts are listed in alphabetical order with the final row displaying either a state total (for enrollment) or an average dollar figure

Some additional things to note:

  • 610 out of 614 school districts lost students and directly lost funds to charter schools
  • Out of those 610 that lost students to charters, 580 lost more funds per pupil to charters than they received from the state for the students who did not go to a charter school
  • On average, each student was worth $7,074.74 in state funding to the enrolling charter school
  • School districts received an average of $3,351.73 in state funding for each student not enrolling in a charter
  • Statewide, charter schools received an average of $3,723.01 more per pupil than the resident school district – over TWICE the amount!

While you certainly will seek out your own school district to see how much you’re losing to charter schools, you should also check out these high-performing school districts and see how they are getting ripped off:

  • Centerville City
  • Dublin City
  • Hilliard City
  • Lakota Local (Butler County)
  • Mason City
  • Olentangy Local
  • Westerville City
  • Solon City 

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