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Charter School Space Costs

A recent report by the Independent Budget Office found that New York City charter schools that don’t use public space receive around $3,000 less per pupil than traditional public schools. This post reviews how much charter schools actually spend on their space.

We created a database using financial information from the 2008-2009 annual financial audits and school siting statistics from the 2008-2009 Blue Book report produced by the School Construction Authority to catalog school space. We found that the 26 schools not housed in Department of Education-provided space spent around $2,100 per pupil on occupancy costs, which includes rent, utilities, safety, and maintenance. You can see the full spreadsheet here. This database lists every charter school and whether or not it is in DOE space. As an added feature, for those in DOE space, it lists the schools with which they share space and their respective progress report scores.

This $2,100 number only tells part of the story. According to a source who helps charter schools find private space, the market average for a charter school to lease space is between $2,400 and $3,500 per pupil. If the rental costs are less than $2,000 per pupil, this probably indicates that the school negotiated a great rental deal, bought the building a long time ago and paid off most of the mortgage, or has some sort of philanthropic money subsidizing part of the cost. This is certainly the case for many of the schools in our spreadsheet, such as the Carl C. Icahn Charter School or Bronx Preparatory Academy — both schools that have some sort of philanthropic entity helping them with their rental and/or purchase needs.

Ultimately, this spreadsheet is intended to serve as a comprehensive resource for those who want to know which charter schools share space, which schools own their buildings, and which schools lease. It includes information gathered from the 2008-2009 Blue Book reports to determine co-located schools, as well as the 2008-2009 fiscal audits and the 2008-2009 Progress Report scores.

As always, we welcome feedback on ways to improve this report!

Please note: Our number of charter schools located in DOE space differs slightly from the numbers listed in this report by the School Construction Authority (SCA). Why this is so remains unclear, as our information was taken from the 2008-2009 Blue Book — a report also produced by the SCA.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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