The current school year is almost over, and LAUSD’s calendar for the 2014-2015 school year is now available online. Project: Emergency preparedness drill kit, including drill development, "victim" cards, status report cards and checklists. Charter schools have a lower cost per pupil than traditional schools:  Based on an analysis of relevant school costs and the number of enrolled high school students, the data shows the per pupil per pupil costs for Alliance charter high school students to be $10,649 per year, compared to $15,372 per year for students at traditional public high schools within LAUSD, that is, we find a per pupil cost differential of 44% in favor of Alliance charter schools. Charter schools have higher API scores and graduation rates than traditional schools:  Academically, comparing LAUSD Alliance charter high schools to LAUSD traditional high schools located in the same neighborhoods, we found the Alliance schools have decisively higher API scores, 762 vs. Charter schools have higher normalized SAT scores than traditional schools:  With respect to SAT scores, when we normalized the comparison between the LAUSD Alliance charter and LAUSD traditional schools under consideration to equalize the rate of test participation, we found that the Alliance charter students outperformed the LAUSD traditional students with average scores of 1417 vs. The academic comparisons we have made involve 18 high schools, nine LAUSD Alliance charter high schools, and nine LAUSD traditional high schools. The second section of this study will analyze the educational performance of LAUSD traditional schools vs. LAUSD’s accrual basis expenditures also include retiree healthcare benefits that current employees have earned but will not claim until they retire. Because Alliance only reports expenditures in accordance with the accrual method of accounting, we use LAUSD’s accrual method expenditure total of $7,967,671,000 for our comparisons.
LAUSD reports total enrollment of 726,371 on page 157 of its CAFR, yielding a per pupil cost of $10,969. Thus, before making adjustments, we find that per pupil expenditures using the accrual basis, are $711 higher for LAUSD traditional than for Alliance charter – a difference of almost 7%. LAUSD’s enrollment total of 726,371 includes 95,381 students [12] enrolled in independent charter Schools. Similarly, LAUSD provides early education services to pre-kindergarten children and infants. In addition to Adult Education, LAUSD offers Career Technical Education (CTE) and Regional Occupational Programs (ROP). The adjustments made to LAUSD to eliminate enrollees and costs not associated with K-12 traditional public school students are summarized below. After these adjustments, LAUSD per pupil costs rise to $13,881 or about 35% higher than the Alliance amount. LAUSD and Alliance have substantially different grade profiles, because Alliance does not operate elementary schools.
A recent report on KPCC [21] states that LAUSD has 82,000 special education students and a $1.4 billion special education department budget – implying a per pupil cost of about $17,000. Thus, we can conclude that a comparison of costs aside from those associated with special education would be more favorable to LAUSD, but it is not clear how large the adjustment would be. In conclusion, we find that LAUSD spends 44% more to educate each high school student than Alliance, but that a part of this differential may be explained by the greater proportion of special education students at LAUSD. Accordingly, we have identified 18 high schools, nine that are part of the LAUSD Alliance charter network and nine that are LAUSD traditional public schools, organized into seven matches, where schools that are in the same neighborhoods are considered to be a match. As can be seen in Table 6, the ethnic makeup is very similar between LAUSD Alliance charter and LAUSD traditional schools.
As shown in Table 7, LAUSD traditional has slightly more English language learners, at 17% vs. To evaluate the academic performance of students in LAUSD Alliance charter schools compared to LAUSD traditional high schools located in the same neighborhoods with similar student demographics, we focus on four variables, each school’s rate of attendance, their API (Academic Performance Index) score, the average SAT score per school, and the graduation rate per school. To accurately compare the SAT scores of students in LAUSD Alliance charter schools with those attending LAUSD traditional high schools located in the same neighborhoods with similar student demographics, it is necessary to consider the relative proportions of students taking the test.
To appreciate what an apples-to-apples comparison might reveal, imagine what the average SAT score would be in the LAUSD traditional schools if 72% of the juniors and seniors took the test.


While data cannot exist for tests that were not taken, we can achieve something closer to an apples-to-apples comparison by excluding a portion of the LAUSD Alliance test results.
Overall, we conclude that LAUSD Alliance charter high schools provide better outcomes at lower costs than comparable LAUSD traditional operated public schools in the same area. Academically, comparing LAUSD Alliance charter high schools to LAUSD traditional high schools located in the same communities, we found the Alliance schools to have decisively higher API scores, 762 vs. Finally, we want to reiterate that the academic comparisons we have made are fairly narrow, involving 18 high schools, nine LAUSD Alliance charter high schools, and nine LAUSD traditional high schools.
11 – Adjustments described here were gathered from Pages 15, 18 and 19 of the LAUSD CAFR. 18 – As this study was being completed, the authors found a set of LAUSD School Accountability Report Cards that contain per pupil costs by school site. 26 – The ethnic breakdown of the enrolled students at each of LAUSD high school, including the charter high schools, can be found from the CA Dept.
The charter schools we selected for analysis are part of the Alliance College Ready Public Schools (Alliance), a nonprofit company that operates 26 charter middle schools and high schools, all of them part of LAUSD, and most of them located in south-central Los Angeles.
However, as will be seen, further adjustments needed to make LAUSD’s costs comparable to those of Alliance, significantly raise our LAUSD cost per pupil estimate. However, LAUSD expenditures shown in its financial audit do not include charter school expenses.
By removing the adult education cost and enrollment from LAUSD data, we can more nearly achieve an apples to apples comparison. Although, per pupil costs within LAUSD are hard to obtain, we were able to find comparative data elsewhere[18].
If we apply this differential to LAUSD and Alliance and if we assume that elementary and middle school students have equivalent costs, we can infer costs per high school student at LAUSD and Alliance from the overall per student costs presented in Table 4 above. LAUSD Alliance charter high schools, district-wide comparisons are easy enough to gather, and offer some insights.
Using available per high school data, the next table attempts to make this assessment by examining the percentages in each group of schools of students who have learning disabilities, students who are English language learners, and students who are on the free or reduced lunch program (in both LAUSD Alliance and LAUSD traditional the percentage of students on the lunch program who get a free lunch vs. As can be seen, the reported average attendance at the LAUSD traditional schools, 95%, was nearly identical to the reported average attendance at the Alliance schools, 96%.
In this hypothetical example, also consider the fact that because the LAUSD traditional schools have a drop-out rate of 15.9% vs. If we assume that LAUSD traditional students who didn’t take the SAT would have had lower scores than the LAUSD students who did take the test, we can match up the LAUSD traditional and LAUSD Alliance charter samples by dropping the lower scores from Alliance.
We estimated the per pupil costs for Alliance charter high school students to be $10,649 per year, compared to $15,372 per year for students at traditional public high schools within LAUSD, that is, we find a per pupil cost differential of 44% in favor of LAUSD Alliance charter schools.
About 11% of LAUSD students are enrolled in K-12 schools, so the actual proportions of elementary and high school students are slightly higher than the numbers provided above. Our preliminary analysis of these report cards shows average per pupil costs of $7,854 for elementary schools and $8,407 for high schools.
This is the 585,894 LAUSD students net of early education, adult education and independent charter schools shown in Table 3 above minus the 29.779 students in Career Technical Education and the Regional Occupational Program.
The first section of this study will analyze the per pupil costs for LAUSD traditional schools vs. Since schools require buildings and teachers unions often demand post-employment benefits, public education cannot be provided by LAUSD without these types of expenditures. Because LAUSD is a complex entity and because we wish to fully justify our calculations, this section is quite long. Alliance does not offer retiree healthcare benefits – providing it with a significant cost saving relative to LAUSD.


LAUSD’s audit reports adult enrollment of 32,267 and adult education costs of $75,993,000 [13]. Consequently, we remove 12,829 early education enrollees and $128,407,000 in Child Development Fund expenditures [14] from the LAUSD totals. But a more meaningful set of comparisons may be derived by presenting academic results between individual LAUSD traditional and LAUSD Alliance charter high schools that are located in close proximity to each other. The next two tables examine the demographics of the 18 high schools, comparing the Alliance charter high schools to the LAUSD traditional high schools. On the other hand, the LAUSD Alliance schools display a distinct edge in their average API scores, 762 vs.
1122 for the Alliance charter students, outperforming them by 177 points, a much lower percentage of LAUSD traditional juniors and seniors actually took the test.
8.5% at LAUSD Alliance, an apples-to-apples comparison would have to actually assume a cohort of juniors and seniors whose numbers have not succumbed to a much higher rate of attrition. Since the LAUSD traditional schools had a test participation rate of 31%, we can get a comparable Alliance SAT average by only considering the top 686 scores – which corresponds to 31% of the 2189 enrolled juniors and seniors (see Table 9).
Later, we use an estimate of 26% high school students in LAUSD by proportionately allocating back those enrolled in K-12 schools. A critical element of this analysis will be to reduce the data for LAUSD to those traditional schools that are in the same neighborhoods as the LAUSD Alliance charter schools. Between the 2008-2009 school year and the 2013-2014 school year, authorized expenditures in the LAUSD budget fell from almost $18 billion [4] to just over $13 billion [5].
But unless actual expenditures were far greater than budget, the two programs are much less expensive on a per student basis than LAUSD’s traditional K-12 program. By contrast, 49% of LAUSD students were enrolled in elementary schools and only 23% were enrolled in high schools [17].
As reported on Table 9, only 31% of the juniors and seniors enrolled in the LAUSD traditional schools took the SAT, vs.
Put another way, taking into account attrition, more than 72% of LAUSD’s traditional still-enrolled juniors and seniors would have to take the SAT to properly compare their performance to LAUSD Alliance’s. According to data provided by Alliance, the top 686 SAT scores at the eight Alliance schools was 1417 – 118 points higher than the LAUSD traditional average [29]. With respect to SAT scores, when we normalized the comparison between the LAUSD Alliance and LAUSD traditional schools under consideration to equalize the rate of participation, we found that the LAUSD Alliance students outperformed the LAUSD traditional students with average scores of 1417 vs. A district-wide LAUSD performance score would be distorted upwards by (1) the performance in many of the wealthier neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley and elsewhere, and by (2) the upward skew represented by the presence of the three charter school operators within LAUSD (many of them in wealthier neighborhoods), enrolling nearly 40,000 students in 59 senior high schools [1], since they are formally part of LAUSD. Since LAUSD’s actual spending overall was below budget, using budgeted expenditures for the two programs is a conservative approach.
LAUSD traditional, on the other hand, has significantly more students who are identified as having learning disabilities, 13% for LAUSD traditional vs. Since LAUSD does not issue pension obligation bonds, virtually all of its borrowing supports capital expenditure. With respect to average SAT scores, the raw data for the LAUSD traditional schools actually shows them outperforming the Alliance schools, 1299 for LAUSD vs. As we will see in the next section, LAUSD spends far less than its budgetary authority, and so it is more accurate to use actual instead of budgeted amounts. Inclusion of the depreciation amount thus provides a reasonable proxy for capital expenditure, and we do not see a strong case for altering LAUSD’s accrual accounting expenditures for our calculations.



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