The Public Cost of Charter Schools

  • The burden of paying charter and cyber charter school tuition falls entirely on school districts and local taxpayers.
  • The charter school funding formula has not been changed since it was created 22 years ago. It’s time to update the law.
  • Charter school tuition payments are based on the school district’s expenses and not on the actual cost of educating students at a charter school, resulting in overpayment.
  • The spiraling costs of charter schools on school district budgets continues to grow. Six cents of every dollar school districts spent in 2017-18 went to paying charter school tuition (cyber and brick-and-mortar).
  • In 2017-18, charter school tuition payments were more than $1.8 billion. $519 million of that total was tuition to cyber charter schools.
  • $1.8 billion of taxpayer money spent on charter school tuition could pay the average salary for 27,000 PA public school teachers.
  • School districts are overpaying charter schools for special education. In the 2014-15 school year, school districts paid charter schools over $100 million more than the charter schools reported spending on special education costs.

Academic Performance

  • Measures of academic proficiency of students enrolled at cyber schools are significantly lower than traditional public schools.
  • A national study of Pennsylvania’s charter school performance found that students enrolled in cyber schools post significantly weaker academic growth than the average student in a traditional public school.
  • On average, charter school proficiency on state testing is more than 20% lower than traditional school districts.
  • Each year, cyber charter students lose the equivalent of 106 days of learning in reading and about 118 days of learning in math compared to traditional public school students.


  • Graduation rates of cyber charters are consistently and substantially below school districts. In fact, 4-year graduation rates at cyber charter schools are more than 31% lower than school districts.
  • The average school district has about 91% of its students graduate in 4 years, while the average cyber charter school has only about 55% of its students graduate in 4 years. Looking at graduation rates statewide, 87.5% of school district students graduate in 4 years, compared to just 56% of students in cyber charters who graduate in 4 years.