study says...

Report: Most city charter schools receive more per-pupil funds

Reversing its earlier findings, the city’s Independent Budget Office has concluded in a new study that most New York City charter schools receive more funding per student than their district school peers.

A year ago, an IBO study found that charter schools housed in public school buildings received $305 less per student than district schools for the 2008-09 school year. Now, the office has revised its methodology and has reached a very different conclusion.

In 2008-09, charter schools in district space were given $701 more per student than traditional public schools, the new study finds. For the 2009-10 school year, that disparity shrunk to $649.

Where the two studies do agree is on the question of funding for charter schools that are housed in private space. Roughly a third of New York City’s 98 charter schools fall into this category, and both studies found that they receive significantly less funding per student than district schools and charter schools in district space. The most recent report states:

The reason we calculate a higher funding allocation for charters housed in public school buildings than charters in private space is the value of in-kind services they receive due to their location: charter schools co-located in public school buildings don’t have to budget for space costs and utilities, janitorial services, or school safety agents.

The IBO’s report did not examine the amount that charter schools raise through private philanthropy each year.

Looking ahead, the study’s authors suggest that the per-pupil funding gap between district schools and charters in district space is likely to widen as a result of the state legislature ending the charter school funding freeze. They write:

When complete data from 2010–2011 become available, they are almost certain to show an even greater advantage for those charters housed within public school buildings compared with traditional public schools.

In its explanation of its new methodology, the IBO states that unlike its last report, the new study does not include spending on transportation for special education students. It also doesn’t include the pension costs of special education teachers at district schools and it uses a new estimate for the cost of fringe benefits.

Department of Education officials have not commented on the report’s findings yet (I’ll post when they do), but a spokesman for the IBO, Doug Turetsky, said that DOE officials had asked the IBO to take down the report because they hadn’t had time to review it.

“We have no intention of pulling it down,” Turetsky said, adding that the IBO sent the study to the DOE last Thursday and received a response yesterday.

In her testimony before the legislature in Albany today, Chancellor Cathie Black seemed to agree with the report’s main conclusion that charter schools in district space receive more funding than district schools.

“It is not our goal to have more money on a continuing basis go to charter schools over district schools,” she told the elected officials. “There are ups and downs in the funding. This year it is true that there is a higher per student payment, but it will equal out.”

Chief Executive Officer of the New York City Charter School Center James Merriman said that he wished the IBO had incorporated former Chancellor Joel Klein’s recommendations for changes to its methodology that Klein suggested last year.

“My sense is taking into account the chancellor’s refinements to their mythology, the numbers come out more or less equal,” he said, suggesting that the disparity between district schools and charters in district space might be much smaller or even nonexistent.

The report “simply confirms what we’ve known all along, which is funding taken as a whole for the charter sector is less than funding for districts schools taken as a whole,” Merriman said.

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.