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In this riveting post, Jersey Jazzman quotes extensively from a presentation by the business manager of one of Hoboken’s charter schools. From state data and her recommendations, he details how charter schools cut costs.
1. They hire less experienced teachers, who cost less. ”
Perhaps the most significant difference between the staffs at district and charter schools in New Jersey is that charter school teachers have far less experience.
Now, contrary to what you may have heard, experience is not an impediment in teaching; to the contrary, there is plenty of evidence teachers gain in effectiveness as they gain experience well into their second decade of teaching. But there is an upside for charter schools in hiring less-experienced staffs: it improves the bottom line.
2. They pay less than district schools, even when experience is equivalent: “In all cases, district teachers make more, even accounting for experience, than their counterparts in charter schools.”
3. Avoid paying teachers for experience and longevity and avoid unions, which might insist on a salary scale. JJ writes: “The truth is that in most American workplaces, more experience leads to higher salaries — which is why charter schools like Elysian maintain staffs with less experience so they can keep their costs lower. Again, we should ask: is this a good thing in the long-term for the teaching profession?”
4. “Replace professionals when appropriate with assistants.” The examples of assistants who might be able to replace professionals are librarians, speech therapists, and teachers (with paraprofessionals). JJ reacts with scorn to this practice: “A strategy of replacing certificated teachers with lower-cost, non-certificated staff might be good for a charter school’s bottom line, but it’s almost certainly a lousy deal for students. And thinking an untrained, non-certificated librarian or speech therapy assistant can replace a fully-trained and certificated staff member is, again, insulting.”
5. Health benefits are costly, so try to hire unmarried staff, or hire staff married to public sector workers who have health benefits to cover them.
6. Aim to move your special education students into general education as soon as possible. JJ points out that this is easier when you don’t enroll students with severe disabilities.
7. Use technology to cut costs. As JJ points out, computers don’t need health insurance.