Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Yes, Virginia, charter school co-locations do indeed cause more overcrowding

Protesters against a charter co-location credit: Daily News
Correction:  I linked to last year's report by mistake, as the comment below from Michael Regnier points out. Here is this year's update from the NYC  Charter Center, which is only one page.  I have changed one of my critiques below accordingly. None of my other points need amending.

Today’s report from the NYC Charter Center claims that buildings where charter schools are co-located tend to be less overcrowded than average school buildings.   Our analysis of the Education Impact Statements (EIS’s) of charter co-location proposals considered by the Panel for Educational Policy between December 2010 and March 2012 finds that of the 79 charter school co-locations proposed by DOE, 22 of them, or nearly 30 percent, were projected to push the building to 100 percent utilization or more during the following year or soon thereafter.  

Moreover, in 47 of these proposals, or nearly 60 percent, the EIS projected that the charter school co-location would soon create a building utilization rate of 90 percent or more – a rate that is often experienced as significantly overcrowded, as shown in our principal survey (How Crowded are Our Schoolsand in the views of many independent observers.  Advocates, parents and elected officials have all pointed out that the DOE’s utilization formula significantly understates the actual level of overcrowding in our schools. 

Despite the claims of DOE that they only co-locate schools where there is room, the insertion of every new school within an existing school building has the effect of causing more overcrowding.  When multiple schools share a space originally intended for one organization, classroom space is lost as administrative, cluster, and specialty rooms have to be replicated for each new school.  
In the past, DOE officials estimated that each new co-location diminishes a school’s capacity by about 10 percent. (See EPP, Capital Promises.)   In a school system that is chronically overcrowded, with more than half of all elementary and high schools at or over 100 percent, the co-location of hundreds of new small schools and charter schools has significantly exacerbated the problem.   
Many parents, advocates, and teachers have seen how charter co-locations have had damaging results, causing students in the existing public schools to be squeezed out of the space they need for a quality education, resulting in loss of art rooms, science labs, libraries, and classroom space, and causing class sizes to rise, especially as there are NO class size standards in the instructional footprint used for these decisions.  It is also common for special needs students to lose their dedicated spaces for mandated services such speech or occupational therapy, and to be pushed out into hallways or closets, especially since the utilization formula does not properly account for the number of students needing these services in each school.
This new report makes another major error: it claims that the Blue Book, the annual report on school capacity and utilization, is not yet available for the 2011-2012 school year, when it was actually released months ago.[Actually, the new one-pager is based on the most recent Blue Book.]
Finally, the statement of James Merriman, the Center’s head in the press release is false: that “charter schools [are] disadvantaged in terms of funding”.  Not even counting the millions of dollars in private funding their receive, NYC charter schools in co-located buildings receive more in per-student public funds than students in public schools receive, when the provision of free space and services are counted, according to an Independent Budget Office analysis.  
The authors of the IBO analysis concluded that co-located charters received about $650 more per student in public funding during the 2009-2010 school year, and that “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.” 

At least one statement in the [earlier] NYC Charter Center report is true 
"…when they [charter schools]are allowed free co-location in district buildings it is without legal right to the space."
We agree.  The provision of free space to charter schools not only causes more overcrowding, but is also a violation of New York state law.  With the help of the pro-bono law firm, Advocates for Justice, we  sued in state court last year to stop this damaging and inequitable practice and the case continues.


Anonymous said...

To clarify about the years of Blue Book data: the full report you linked was published in October 2011. The Charter Center's updated analysis is now posted here:

Sorry for the confusion and thanks for pointing this out.

Michael Regnier
NYC Charter School Center

Leonie Haimson said...

Thanks Michael; I have changed the post accordingly. I do wish you might respond to some of my other points however. Co-locations do cause more overcrowding and many of the charter co-locations will push schools above 100%. Why is this good for NYC students? Why can't charter schools, supported by billionaires in many instances, lease their own buildings if not purposefully trying to undermine the conditions in our public schools?