Cost Effectiveness of Public Schools

OKLAHOMA CITY, March 4, 2019 - A study designed to examine the cost effectiveness and performance of Oklahoma public schools found student achievement at the state’s public charter schools is on par with their traditional counterparts despite a sizable gap in funding.

The report was authored by Robert Sommers, Ph.D., of Ohio-based CF Educational Solutions, Sommers is a former Oklahoma secretary of education and workforce development and served as the state’s CareerTech director.

The report examined costs and performance for fiscal years 2014 through 2016. It ranked the top 40 public schools in terms of cost effectiveness for each of the three years studied. Despite having only 30 public charter schools statewide, public charter schools made up roughly 25 percent of the top 40 list in each of the study’s three years. Oklahoma has 512 traditional public school districts.

According to the report, Sommers employed the Kalmus Ratio to accurately measure cost effectiveness in a manner that includes not only per-pupil expenditures but also student achievement. Per-pupil costs were determined by dividing total school expenditures by total enrollment. Achievement was determined using state academic tests, adjusted for students in poverty.  The combined data results in the cost-effectiveness ranking.

Employing the Kalmus Ratio, the report concluded that the three-year average cost effectiveness for public charter schools ($7,439 per proficient test) was better than traditional schools ($7,756 per proficient test).

When measuring student achievement, the three-year average for both traditional and charter was about 66 percent. Over the three-year study period, student achievement remained steady in traditional public schools year to year. It dipped slightly among public charter schools, dropping from 68 percent in FY2014 to 63 percent in FY2016.

The data indicates that the profound resource gap between traditional public schools and public charter schools is taking a toll on performance and cost effectiveness in Oklahoma’s public charter schools. According to the study, traditional public schools averaged almost $2,100 more in per-pupil funding in FY2016.

Dr. Robert Sommers, CF Education Solutions Executive Director, said, “The analysis and report was done to determine if inequities in funding impact student performance in addition to identifying public schools that are providing great bang for the buck to taxpayers so that all schools can benefit from what those in the top 40 are doing right”

Rob Sommers