Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Graduate School

Department

Public Policy and Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Eugenia F. Toma

Abstract

Since Minnesota passed the first charter school law in 1991, charter schools have become one of the most prominent school reforms in the U.S. While charter schools educate a small portion of public school enrollments, their existence has prompted various responses from traditional public school districts. For example, districts may change expenditure patterns or work to increase test scores in an effort to retain enrollments. In this sense, a charter school’s most significant impact on public school students may work indirectly through the traditional public school reactions they invoke.

This dissertation explores education finance implications for charter schools and their encompassing public school districts. Using a dataset comprised of U.S. public school districts over sixteen years, I examine the local school district’s revenue response to the establishment of a charter school. Following a description of the multi-level policy environment in which charter schools operate, this dissertation includes a summary of the literature examining student achievement and expenditure responses of public school districts to the presence of charter schools. Next, I develop a conceptual model outlining the reasons that a school district may experience a change in revenue when charter schools locate within or nearby.

Before testing the public school district response to charter schools, I had to accurately measure charter school locations across the U.S. To do this, I used geographic information system (GIS) software to improve upon alternative charter location databases maintained by the federal government and national charter school organizations. With charter school locations accurately mapped, I estimated the traditional public school district revenue response to the various measures of charter school presence. Findings from this estimation suggest that, on average traditional public school districts experienced changes in per-pupil revenues when charter schools located closer to the district. Specifically, revenues from local sources decreased as charter schools moved nearer, but revenues from federal sources increased. This relationship changed over time, however. As charter schools were authorized in more districts and states, per-pupil revenues began increasing as charter schools moved closer to school districts.