It is a pervasive myth, perpetuated by teachers unions and their allies, that more taxpayer funding is the solution to America’s educational woes. Two new studies on public charter schools dispel that myth by demonstrating how such schools accomplish more with less. 

Researchers at the University of Arkansas found that public charter schools in 18 cities receive, on average, 30% less funding per student than the typical public school. This amounts to more than a $7,000 gap in per-pupil expenditure between traditional public schools and public charters. 

The union-led lie would have one believe that schools with less funding have worse outcomes. In reality, the opposite is true: A 2023 Stanford University study found that public charter schools propel students to better academic achievement than what they would have attained at a traditional public school. The difference is equivalent to an additional 16 days of reading instruction and six days of math instruction. The benefits compound for students who remain in a charter school for a longer period of time. “By [a student’s] fourth year in their charter school, they show 45 days stronger growth in reading than their TPS peers and 39 additional days of learning per year in math,” the study shows.

The positive difference charters make is especially evident in the results for minority students. Black students attending charter schools were 35 days ahead in reading and 29 days ahead in math than they would have been after a year of traditional public schooling. Hispanic charter school students benefited to the tune of another 30 days of reading and 19 days of math instruction. 

Of course, standardized tests are not the only measure of a school’s performance. There are many reasons families may choose another school other than the one to which their child is assigned by the government. Among those is the learning environment a school offers. Charter schools outperform their traditional peers on that metric as well. A 2018 Government Accountability Office report found that charter schools had lower rates of expulsions, in-school suspensions, and school-related arrests than typical public schools. 

The benefits extend to teachers, too, who report stronger rates of well-being than teachers in typical public schools. In a recent survey, 94% of charter school teachers said that their schools contribute to their personal happiness, compared to 72% of traditional public school teachers. Sixty-six percent of charter school teachers said they were thriving, compared to only 41% of their district public school peers. 

These disparities are predictable: Charter schools have flexibility under state and local regulations to educate their students in ways that best meet their needs. Teachers have more autonomy, and students learn more with lower rates of disciplinary problems. If any of these markers were determined by money, the opposite would be true. It’s not the dollar amount that matters; it’s what education leaders do with the dollars they have.