Making Sense of How Charter Schools Affect School District Finances: A Reporter’s Guide

May 2019


Do charter schools drain resources from traditional public schools and undermine school districts’ financial soundness? This question is of growing concern to California policymakers and citizens. School finance can be a mind-fogging subject for readers and journalists alike, but it’s an important topic—and one that’s grown more heated as striking teachers and hard-charging charter school advocates ratchet up their rhetoric. Journalists have an increasingly important role to play in helping observers separate fact from fiction. 

In this guide, we unpack how enrollment loss stemming from charter schools may or may not shape districts’ financial situations, offer questions journalists can ask of school districts to form more interesting and informative portraits of how charter schools influence local school districts, and provide guidance on how journalists can interpret research on this topic.