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Are Many New York City Charters Now Better-Funded than District Schools?

Although the New York City Charter School Center’s website still claims that charters “do more with less,” recent increases to charter funding in New York could mean that as of this fall, most charters in the city may now be getting hundreds of dollars more in per-student base funding than district schools.

According to information being distributed by the state and by the Charter School Center, NYC charter schools will receive a base rate of $13,527 in per-student support in 2010-11 (this base rate does not include items such categorical funding linked to individual student characteristics, such as special education status). This represents an increase of $1,084 per student (8.7%) from their per-student funding of $12,443 in 2009-10 and 2008-09. Based on a formula developed by the city’s Independent Budget Office (IBO), if district schools see no budget increase this year, this means charters in shared space will now be getting $492 more per student than the district school they share a building with.

In February 2010, the IBO released a report (using methods accepted by the Charter School Center and the New York Charter School Association) which showed that, counting both the base funding and other money and services which the DOE provides to charter schools, charters which were co-located in district schools in 2008-09 received only $305 less in per-student funding than district schools. Based on this same formula, a very conservative estimate would predict that in 2010-11 this base amount will be supplemented by approximately $3,643 per student for charters co-located in DOE schools — which make up 2/3 of charters in NYC — and $931 for charters in private space. (This assumes that none of the DOE’s expenses for providing charters with budget items such as transportation or facilities rose in between 2008-09 and 2010-11; it also removes funding which now only goes to charters in their first year of operation.) With these additional funds, the per-student funding for charters may have risen significantly — to $14,458 for charters in private space, and to $17,170 for charters in co-located space.

If general education funding in district schools in 2010-11 remains frozen at the 2008-09 level of $16,678, this means that as of 2010-11, charter schools in co-located space will receive approximately $492 more per student than district schools. Charter schools in private space will receive $2220 less per student in base funding than district schools, decreasing their funding gap by 26% since 2008-09.

If district funding decreases by the 4% estimate recently cited by the DOE, the IBO’s calculated per-student base funding for district schools could drop to $16,011. If this occurs, charters in co-located space would receive $1,159 more per student than district schools, and those in private space would see their funding gap drop to $1,553, decreasing it by 48% since 2008-09.

These are striking numbers, given the familiar claim that charter schools in New York City are currently underfunded. Perhaps when the IBO does an update of its report, we’ll have a better sense if the landscape of charter funding in the city really has shifted this dramatically.

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3 Comments:

  • 1 Leonie Haimson
    · Dec 21, 2010 at 9:26 am

    thanks for this important analysis. Charter tuition keeps on rising quickly while in recent years overall spending, especially at the school-level in district schools has been cut to the bone.

    Unfortunately, the IBO did not compare school -level spending, but the overall costs per student at DOE schools, even though much of this spending is for central costs that do not benefit kids, such as ARIS etc.

    At the same time, it would be good for the IBO to do a new analysis with updated figures, and to revisit two of the assumptions in their previous report:

    1- that the per pupil transportation cost for charter school students was exactly the same as district students — which is unlikely given that most charter school students live further away from their schools than zoned district students;

    2- that each child is funded the same way in district schools as they are in charter schools, when we know that in district schools, “fair student funding” allocates more proportionally more dollars to children needing sped services and ELL students. Yet in charter schools, FSF does not apply — which also tends to benefit these schools as they tend to enroll fewer of these high needs students.

    3. Finally, it also be worthwhile to ask the IBO to examine the impact of private fundraising at NYC charter schools, to see how real overall per pupil spending compares.

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