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Friday, September 5, 2008

Charter School Funding Per Child Much Higher Than Public Schools

While it has been well known that charter schools have attracted large amounts of private funding, information released by DOE now show that even the public funds charters receive result in much higher per-capita spending than at public schools.

In a budget package released last week, DOE cited a figure of $8,278 in per capita tax levy funding for public schools exclusive of District 75 which serves children with developmental challenges and has dramatically higher funding per child.

In contrast, DOE documents provided last spring (see page 8c) show per child funding of $12,432 for next year for the city's charter school students.

This funding disparity helps explain why charters have been able to cap class size at much lower levels and provide far more in terms of curriculum and enhancements than traditional public schools.


Anonymous said...

but charter schools pay for rental of facilities out of their own budget, regular public schools do not. Charter schools usually pay teachers less, that's why they can keep class size down

Patrick Sullivan said...

No they don't. In NYC Charter schools are mostly located in public school facilities. Agree on the teacher compensation. Less pay and longer hours.

Anonymous said...

Not true, however. Many charters pay much higher salaries, and many have higher classes as well.

Mills said...

Also, this is an apples-to-apples comparison. The correct comparison brings charters in under 90% of the funding district schools get. Charters are their own LEAs and thus the accurate comparison is to the DOE, not to each district school. The district schools don't have to provide the state reports and the operations infrastructure that charters and the DOE do.

Vision von Braun: Necromancer de Futuro said...

To me this issue is very important to have clarify.It would be scandelous if charters were actually funded 50% higher than district schools for the same services.

I would like to see a fuller exploration. Who can provide such an analysis? Perhaps the Independent Budget Office.

Patrick Sullivan said...

Mills -- You have missed the point. If a charter school resides within a DOE facility and therefore benefits from the capital budget, heat, electricity, custodial support, maintenance, etc. then the correct comparison is to the number I cited. I've heard "90%" figure too but have never seen a source. You need to bring real facts and data to this discussion.

Anonymous -- no, most don't have higher classes. Most explicitly promote smaller classes as a benefit. Charters generally don't release this information but if you have data, please share it.

Patrick Sullivan said...

von braun -- Agree completely. I've asked Kathleen Grimm, Deputy Chancellor for Administration for a full accounting. Yes, I will ask IBO once I see what DOE provides.

Mills said...


Even if charters don't have to pay for custodians and upkeep of facilities (I don't know if they do), there is still a tremendous amount of central office support at the DOE that's available to district schools that charters have to re-create on their own dime. That's why the correct apples-to-apples comparison is between charter funding and the DOE's per-pupil funding (perhaps minus facilities expenses on both sides).

Of course, you could argue that the DOE's support isn't worth the money they spend on it, and I'd say that's exactly why charter schools are important: to find new ways to spend the money that benefit kids more.

Leonie Haimson said...

Mills: Are you kidding?

"A tremendous amount of central office support at the DOE that's available to district schools that charters have to re-create on their own dime"?

Name one thing that comes out of Tweed that is worth spending a penny on.

Teacher training? nil. Useful curricula? I haven't seen it. Help for principals in any shape or form?

No, just more destructive requirements like "data inquiry teams" that take teachers out of the classroom and further disadvantage students.

I also think its rather disingenuous of you to claim that charter schools have a natural advantage, based on the incompetence of the administration that is promoting them.

But I guess that's the conservative strategy -- create such incompetent, dysfunctional government that the public will no longer support the notion that the government can provide useful public services, leading to further privatization and the undermining of the whole notion of the public good.

Mills said...

As I already said, Leonie, your point just proves the case for charters. Districts mis-spend that money. Charters spend it well, thus providing a positive example. But charters get less of that money, and do more with it, than the district does.

Leonie, do you ever feel a tinge of guilt when you make up lies about charters serving more motivated students? I would think it would eventually tweak your conscience, though I know it serves your purpose.

Patrick Sullivan said...

Mills --

In NYC the regional offices are gone and the districts are largely symbolic and don't provide support services. They have been replaced by SSOs (school support organization) which are funded out of the individual school budgets - which is within the number I cited. So there is no "tremendous amount of central office support" that is provided outside of the funding number I quoted as you assert.

There is much spending in Tweed that needs to be allocated to charters and public schools alike. But many offices there spend more on a per capita basis for charter students than public school students. For example, the Office of Portfolio Development, the Chancellor's Office, the Press Office, the Office of Pupil Transportation, etc. all spend more time with charters than public school on a per-capita basis. One large cost at Tweed is the Office of Accountability. Development of a separate set of accountability data for charters is more expensive per student than what is spent on public schools.

I'm looking more closely at these data and will be sure to amend anything I've said that is misleading. This is not a post about charters being good or bad but simply about what they actually cost relative to public schools. My point is that by housing them in public school facilities, any costs advantage is more than wiped out resulting in higher expenditures for charter students. I've not seen anything to convince me that's not true.

Patrick Sullivan said...

I had a call with Michael Duffy of DOE today. He looks after charter schools. He said I didn't have an apples to apples comparison. He and the budget office were going to work something up that would represent their version of a fair comparison.

He did clarify what nature of services the DOE provides for charter schools. These are from the list he shared:

School facility
Utilities- heat/electricity
Student transportation
Food services
District for Committee on Special Educations (CSE) Evaluations & Referrals
Assessment & testing accommodations
Safety & health services
Technology integration and infrastructure
Student placement and transitional services
Human resources (limited)
Integration policy (e.g. such as middle & HS choice process, promotion, shared space, etc..)
Public hearings
Serve as authorizing entity

That's quite a list and would suggest that much of the overhead cost residing in the Tweed Courthouse or services provided within a DOE building should be allocated to both charter and private schools.

Mills said...

While that's a long list, it's a long list of very inexpensive services, except facilities, which seem to be distributed at the same "rate" they're distributed to the DOE schools. Compared to the list of services the DOE provides to DOE schools, this is neither long nor proportionally expensive.

Patrick Sullivan said...

Food and transport is quite a lot.

But the point is that there is not some enormous district or central overhead that should be part of what we consider public school cost and not part of charter school costs.

Mills said...

Food is probably very inexpensive, because it's mostly reimbursed by the federal government. And what is the transportation cost? Most of the kids take the subway?

My point is that there IS still an enormous cost that is carried by the district for DOE schools that they don't spend on charters. I haven't seen any evidence to the contrary, save for your list that's accompanied by zero dollar amounts.

Patrick Sullivan said...

Looking at the city's official budget numbers, we see Transportation costs for 2009 are $1,068,988,318. Over the 1.05 million children, that's about $1,000 per capita. Now charter schools because they have mostly elementary school and middle school children would account for more per capita. Also because they are not neighborhood schools. So you would add at least $1K per child. Food is about $400 per child. Whether it's federally funded or not doesn't matter. It is still added on top of the $12,400 in cash each charter gets per child.

You can go online to the DOE's Galaxy system and type in the number of a public school. That's what they get and you'll see it's quite a bit less than $12K.

Leonie Haimson said...

Okay Mills - why don't you offer the list of DOE services that are provided to traditional public schools, that are not provided to charter schools, along with their cost and inherent value?

Then perhaps you'd have something to back up your claims.

Ken said...

I more thoroughly reviewed the document that Leonie refers to with respect to per pupil spending at traditional public schools. I believe that the number $8,278 refers only to the portion of funding paid for by NYC income taxes. (Total funding includes significant state and federal components.) This report was probably presented to the city council to approve the city component of the school funding formula, although I am not sure. Meanwhile, the $12,400 number Leonie quotes is the total amount that charter schools receive per pupil. (Of course, this number doesn't include philanthropic support.) Leonie, unless you think I have this wrong, you should probably stop quoting $8,278 as comparable to the charter school funding number. I intend to do more work on this subject.


Ken said...

I think when I wrote "NYC income taxes" I really should have written "NYC tax revenues". And, as is probably clear from my comments, I am not 100% sure of this, so any assistance would be appreciated.

Patrick J. Sullivan said...


You can go to the Galaxy system and see what individual schools get from all funding sources and then calculate a per pupil figure. For example, M006 is where the mayor votes. The school budget is $5,585,296 for 796 kids, or $7,016. Yes, much money, especially Federal money is spent on facilities, food, busing, Tweed management and is not included in that figure. But all of that funding benefits both charter and traditional public schools alike when charters are situated in BOE facilities.

I sat down with Garth Harries and Michael Duffy who oversee charters for DOE. They rejected my assertion that charters get more per capita. Garth estimated that the funding was about the same when a charter was in a BOE building. We agreed to disagree.

The operating budget is coming up for review. I will recalculate a better estimate for per capita across public schools. I had asked both DOE and IBO to do this and neither has obliged. I'll do it myself.


Here is the Galaxy link.

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