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A teacher lectures students at KIPP charter school in Houston in 2007. (Pat Sullivan/​The Associated Press)

Houston — The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) today released the Houston School Finance Report” (HSFR), a policy paper that explains the levels and sources of school funding and expenditures for three school districts in Houston, Texas: Houston Independent School District (HISD), KIPP Houston, and YES Prep Public Schools.

The school finance report presents publicly available education data in a way that is digestible and allows the reader to make direct comparisons among districts,” said Dr. Josh McGee, LJAF’s Vice President of Public Accountability. Our hope is it that the report enhances understanding of school finance in Texas.”

As part of LJAF’s Public Accountability efforts to improve the efficiency and efficacy of the public sector, the HSFR provides a description of how Texas public school funding affects both traditional and charter school districts. The paper explores the differences, similarities, challenges and advantages that the three districts faced during three school years: 2007-08, 2008-09, and 2009-10.

When all government funding components were taken into account, HISD received most of its funding from local sources, while the two charter districts were funded mostly through the state. Total government revenue from all sources favored HISD: $11,279 per student, compared with $11,100 for KIPP and $10,059 for YES Prep. In regard to actual spending by the districts (which took into account both government revenue and private donations), KIPP spent slightly more per student than did HISD, and both KIPP and HISD outpaced YES Prep’s spending: HISD spent $12,256 per student, compared with $12,312 by KIPP and $11,673 by YES Prep.

In the years covered by this report, HISD generated an annual average of $835 per student in facilities funding, whereas charter schools received no facilities funds through state programs. This disparity between the charter districts and HISD results from the fact that the charters are ineligible for Texas’s facility funding programs. This accentuates the difficulties of startup and expansion for charter schools and creates a reliance on private fundraising to support facilities.

LJAF actively seeks opportunities to invest in organizations and thought leaders that have a sincere interest in implementing changes that comprehensively address current and future public accountability challenges. We seek fundamental changes that not only yield immediate gains, but also repair broken systems for future generations. LJAF welcomes the opportunity to be a resource to those that share these goals.

The full report can be found here.