In the 2012-13 school year, charter schools received over $829 million in state taxpayer dollars to educate just over 116,000 children – an average of $7,144.86 per child.  By comparison, after this money was deducted from payments to Ohio’s local public school districts, those districts received just shy of $5.5 billion to educate the remaining 1.7 million children.  While that may sound like a high dollar figure, it averages out to only $3,125.30 per student.

What this means is that last year, charter schools in Ohio received, on average, over twice as much (2.29 times, to be exact) per student in taxpayer funds.  We’re always looking for new ways to put these figures in perspective, so let’s take a look at an analogy that everyone can likely relate to – buying a car.

FIAT500For $19,500, we can by a brand new, 2014 Fiat 500 – a cute, 2-door hatchback.  We’ll use this car to represent the average amount of state funds going to Ohio’s local school districts per student.  Nothing fancy, but it will get us around town.



Now, what about the charter school’s car?  While we had $19,500 to spend, the charter school gets a budget equivalent of 2.29 times that amount – approximately $44,600.  For that amount, the taxpayer funds can go to purchase something just a bit better than our Fiat – how about a 2015 Volvo S80?  This 4-door sedan seats five comfortably and is a real beauty with a load of safety features.

Which car would you rather have?  And what are the taxpayers getting in return for this greater investment?


The truth is that across the state, charter schools are not performing as well as our local public schools.  To follow our car analogy, not only aren’t the charters performing like that Volvo S80, very few charters are even performing as good as our little Fiat.  In fact, most of Ohio’s charter schools are performing more like an AMC Pacer from the late 70s.

In Ohio, Governor Kasich and GOP-dominated legislature have not only promoted a continuation of this scheme, they have implemented budgets that encourage unfettered expansion of charters across the state – they are continuing to provide funds for Volvos, but are instead purchasing AMC Pacers (at the Volvo’s sticker price).

Meanwhile, we have many districts across Ohio that are “wheeling-and-dealing” with their limited state funds and somehow ending up with the equivalent of high-end sports cars.  In the past, we looked at the difference between the state funds that the very-high-performing Olentangy Local School District received compared to what they had to pay out to charter schools.

Olentangy received only $441.43 per student from the state while the charters took away $10,124 for each student they pulled from the district.  This means that the charters received 22.9 times as much funding as did Olentangy.

CruzeLet’s look at this in terms of our car purchasing power.  If Olentangy is able to purchase a nice, American-made Chevy Cruze ($19,910), then what type of car would we expect those charters pulling children and money from the local district to represent with the equivalent price of over $450,000?

The charters might use their budget to settle on a 2014 Lamborghini Aventador.


Yet as we again look at the performance of these charters as compared to Olentangy, the local school district looks more like the slick Lamborghini while the charters appear more like a used Chevy Chevette.

Why are Olentangy residents forced to pay the price for high-end Italian sports cars while only receiving used clunkers in return?

The Kasich Administration keeps pushing the concept of school choice as a method of school reform, believing that this supposed “competition” will improve all schools.  In reality, we have over a decade worth of data that shows that not only don’t charters perform better than the local school districts, they don’t even perform as well as the local public schools.

In the terms of our car-purchasing analogy, Ohio’s taxpayers are shelling out money that should be buying Volvos and Lamborghinis, yet we’re being given Pacers and Chevettes in return.


If this was your money that you were investing, would you be satisfied with these returns?

Ohioans, this IS your money.  Will you continue to let Governor Kasich waste it?



  • Guest

    But how much public districts get from the state is not their total per pupil funding total. They all have local levies right? (The ones that can pass them anyway.) Look, I get that charters are robbing us blind, but your $$ numbers listed above are telling an incomplete story.

  • Think.

    How very appropriate to use car analogies, especially because the governor believes in moving at the speed of business. If we could only travel back to that time when Kasich said, “If you think that I’m going in the wrong direction, stop me. I don’t want to drive over a cliff. I just want to be a good governor.” Many Ohioans do think that the governor has been going in the wrong direction with charter schools, but he’s not driven to care what we think anymore.
    In November, Ohio voters will need to move at the speed of business to drive home a way to stop John Kasich and route his exit from politics once and for all.

  • Guest


  • Guest

    Agreed. Plunderbund, you are leaving out the money that school districts from local taxpayers. In the end they receive the same funding public schools do. You don’t need this argument. Let’s not give the pro-charter school people a rebuttal argument by leaving this detail out. The fact that the whole charter school system is a scam in which they are stealing a “profit” by underpaying teachers and keeping the difference and producing low achieving schools as a result is the point that needs to be made. Plus the fact that Kasich and company are in effect stealing taxpayer money to pay their friends and then receiving a lot of this money back in the form of campaign donations. That’s enough. Keep explaining that to the public and leave out the argument above.

  • anastasjoy

    Well, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer so famously said in its editorial endorsing Kasich, “[Strickland’s] Republican challenger, John Kasich, is a former congressman from suburban Columbus given to Reagan-style optimism and bold, sometimes questionable, ideas. He is just as clearly the wild card, eager to shake up the status quo and even challenge his own party, but also capable of talking himself right off a cliff.”

    I think he has totally proved them right about the “questionable ideas.”

  • anastasjoy

    I don’t think this is a “detail” being left out. I think the point is manifestly clear: our state tax dollars are subsidizing these weak schools to compete with our public schools. And if a public school gets, say, only $500 per student from the state, then no more than that should be subtracted per student going to a charter school. If you subtract, say, $5000 (to use a nice round number), you are taking away state money from 10 students. That’s not fair. While the idea of schools “competing” sounds good on the surface, when you are competing with tax dollars, you are only spreading them thinner and shortchanging everyone.

  • Retrofuturistic

    The only people who profit from charter schools (i.e., privatization) are the unregulated administrators who keep most of the money instead of using it to provide services to the students.

  • dmoore2222

    Yeah. What about the ROI republicans love to point to? Between this and JobsOhio, Ohioans are really getting fleeced. Had charters and JobsOhio been democrat innitiatives, republicans be in revolt. I wonder how all those republican households in the heavily republican Olentangy district are liking this right about now.

  • becca

    To take this one step further – If the state gives $500 to the public school, yet, the charter pulls away $5000 away from the public – the charter does get a part of local tax dollars. It’s just going there indirectly as part of the dollars the public school has to turn over.

  • Red Rover

    I’d say the metaphor is more accurate if you say the charters are siphoning gas out and stripping parts off of the public’s car. They’re essentially a street gang with better advertising and political connections. Another term for it is organized crime!

  • anastasjoy

    Exactly, Becca. The public school should have to give up no more money than they are receiving. Let the state figure of how to make Mr. Brennan and Mr. Lager richer at the expense of our kids. On second thought, don’t.

  • bobbysrivastava

    I am dumber for reading this article. You are leaving out far too much information if you’re trying to make a point.

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!