School Choice & Charters

Budget Gaps Found to Undermine Personalized Learning Programs in Charter Schools

By Arianna Prothero — May 29, 2014 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A report on charter schools that implemented tech-based, personalized learning programs this year found that the programs were susceptible to budget gaps because they missed enrollment and donation projections.

Preliminary findings from an on-going two-year study of eight charter schools are outlined in a policy brief by the Center on Reinventing Public Education. The schools opened at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year with grant money from the Next Generation Learning Challenges initiative, which is funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates and the William and Flora Hewlett foundations.

“We wanted to get these interim findings out,” CRPE senior research fellow, Larry Miller, told Education Week. “We hadn’t planned to publish anything until the end of the two-year study, but we thought that these findings were important, timely and actionable.”

The general idea behind the personalized learning programs is to use a combination of technology and teachers to tailor instruction to each student and to provide data on what students know and how they’re progressing. The schools in the study planned to spend about 34 percent of their budgets on “human capital” and 27 percent on technology.

“The schools we studied planned to allocate their budgets differently than traditional public schools,” said Miller in a statement. “But when budgets got tight and cuts were necessary, these schools cut spending on technology, protected spending on staff, and ended up using their resources like the schools they were trying to differentiate themselves from.”

In the end, however, the schools spent nearly 60 percent on human capital and only 10 percent on technology. Five of the eight schools still ended up with unsustainable budgets where their ongoing expenses were more than their regular public revenue.

Miller outlined a few policy suggestions for schools looking to implement similar personalized learning programs:

  • More aggressively market and advertise the programs so that the schools can hit their enrollment targets;
  • Plan for a worst-case-scenario budget before the worst case is realized, and think more strategically to reduce spending if budget gaps are encountered within the first year;
  • Figure out the minimum hardware and software requirements to deliver personalized learning, and which hardware and software apps meet those requirements for the lowest prices; and,
  • Manage product contracts proactively by being explicit about needs, establishing performance requirements, and negotiating trial periods.

CRPE’s larger study is looking at a mix of over 20 charter and traditional public schools all of which are Next Generation Learning Challenges grant recipients. The CRPE’s study is funded by the Gates’ foundation.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Virtual Charters in Hot Water Again. Accusations of Fraud Prompt $150M Lawsuit
Indiana officials seek to recoup more than $150 million they say was either wrongly obtained or misspent by a consortium of virtual schools.
Arika Herron, The Indianapolis Star
2 min read
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis. Rokita filed a lawsuit against a group of online charter schools accused of defrauding the state out of millions of dollars Thursday, July 8, 2021.
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis.
Darron Cummings/AP
School Choice & Charters How the Pandemic Helped Fuel the Private School Choice Movement
State lawmakers got a new talking point as they pushed to create and expand programs to send students to private schools.
8 min read
Collage showing two boys in classroom during pandemic wearing masks with cropped photo of feet and arrows going in different directions.
Collage by Gina Tomko/EducationWeek (Images: Getty)
School Choice & Charters Opinion Taking Stock After 30 Years of Charter Schools
Rick Hess speaks with Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, on charter schools turning 30.
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters In Fight Over Millions of Dollars for Charter Schools, a Marijuana Tax May Bring Peace
The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously to rescind a polarizing lawsuit settlement, pending certain stipulations.
Nuria Martinez-Keel, The Oklahoman
3 min read
Money bills cash funds close up Getty