Unions’ School Funding Fears Are Unfounded, Study Finds

Online charter schools offer kids even in the far corners of Oregon the chance to receive a public education tailored to their individual needs. Yet many districts and union representatives oppose Oregon’s virtual charter schools, claiming they drain money from local districts.

Due to these complaints, Oregon’s legislature will consider allowing school districts to deny additional students access to virtual charter schools if 3% of district students have already enrolled in the online option.

But a report released last week by Cascade Policy Institute shows that these fears are unfounded. Overall, online schools have had little impact on spending and actually can allow districts to spend more per student.

Unlike ordinary public schools, online charter schools do not receive local funding, and they receive substantially less per-student funding than traditional public schools. That means a student transfer to an online charter school usually enables the student’s home district, and the charter schools’ sponsoring district, to spend more money per remaining traditional public school student.

While virtual charter schools have little financial impact on school districts, they have a huge impact on each child who thrives in an online school. Instead of talking about limiting options further, legislators, district officials, and union members should celebrate success and look for ways to increase kids’ educational opportunities.

Christina Martin is a policy analyst for the School Choice Project at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.