Skip to main content

Useful But Flawed Analysis of Impact of Charter Schools on Traditional Public Schools

BOULDER, CO (May 18, 2023)—A recent report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute considers whether charter schools increase or decrease traditional public school districts’ total revenues, instructional spending per pupil, and efficiency. Though the report has useful starting points in looking at the impact of charters, its policy recommendations are flawed.

Huriya Jabbar of the University of Texas at Austin reviewed Think Again: Do Charter Schools Drain Resources From Traditional Public Schools? and found its claims to be largely unsupported by evidence.

Based on its review of literature, the report finds that charter schools have mixed impacts on district finances; additionally, it suggests that while short-term effects may be negative, traditional public schools facing charter competition see improved efficiency over time.

The report references most of the relevant literature and fairly assesses the evidence. However, it makes claims and policy recommendations that are untested empirically and unwarranted based on the research. For example, it concludes that districts’ higher expenditures in a charter environment are due to policies protecting traditional public schools from revenue fluctuations caused by charter competition. In doing so, it fails to consider other possible explanations, such as charters strategically enrolling relatively few students who are particularly costly to educate.

The report also suggests that public school closures resulting from unsupportable enrollment decline are a positive outcome of competition—downplaying how severely closures disrupt and negatively impact marginalized students and communities.

Professor Jabbar concludes that while the report may be a good resource for identifying studies related to the important questions it asks, its unsupported claims and recommendations make its advice of little use to policymakers.

Find the review, by Huriya Jabbar, at:

Find Think Again: Do Charter Schools Drain Resources From Traditional Public Schools?, written by David Griffith and published by the Fordham Institute, at:

NEPC Reviews ( provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, sponsors research, produces policy briefs, and publishes expert third-party reviews of think tank reports. NEPC publications are written in accessible language and are intended for a broad audience that includes academic experts, policymakers, the media, and the general public. Our mission is to provide high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation about education policy. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence and support a multiracial society that is inclusive, kind, and just. Visit us at: