Charter Schools Housed in the City’s School Buildings Get More Public Funding per Student than Traditional Public Schools

Posted by Ray Domanico and Yolanda Smith, February 15, 2011

Last February, IBO published estimates (Comparing the Level of Public Support: Charter Schools versus Traditional Public Schools) of the level of public financial support for the city’s traditional public schools and charter schools in school year 2008–2009. Our new review of public financial support for general education services during 2009–2010 finds that charter schools located in public school buildings received an average of $649 more per student than traditional public schools. We have also updated our estimate for 2008-2009 to reflect some revisions to our methodology.

We estimate that total public financial support in 2009–2010 for general education services averaged $16,011 per pupil in traditional public schools, $16,660 per pupil in charter schools housed in public school buildings, and $13,653 per pupil in charter schools housed in private space (see Comparison of Funding Traditional Schools Versus Charter Schools table) 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. As of 2009-2010, two-thirds of the city’s 98 charter schools were housed in public school buildings.

School year 2009-2010 was the last year of a funding freeze on the state-mandated charter school per pupil allocation. The freeze was lifted for the current 2010–2011 school year, increasing the per capita adjusted operating expense for charter schools in New York City by $1,084. The adjusted operating expense per capita is the largest public source of funding for charter schools. 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.

Applying our revised methodology to the 2008–2009 data, we now estimate that average public funding for traditional public schools was $15,672 per pupil that year. IBO’s estimates of public support for charter schools housed in public school buildings and charter schools in private space for 2008–2009 were unchanged at $16,373 and $13,661 per pupil, respectively.

Based on our revised approach, we estimate that charters in public school buildings received public funding that exceeded the support for traditional public schools by an average of $701 per pupil in 2008–2009. We’d previously estimated that funding for charter schools housed in public school buildings averaged $305 less per pupil. Our conclusions for charters housed in private space have not changed dramatically; these schools still received significantly less per pupil than did traditional public schools. (For an explanation of our methodological changes and a crosswalk between the estimates we published last year and our revised estimates for 2008–2009 see “Changes in Methodology.”)

With an overall increase in the Department of Education’s budget from 2008–2009 to 2009–2010, the funding provided to traditional public schools increased by an average of $339 per pupil. Average funding of charter schools housed within public school buildings increased $287 per pupil, while funding for charter schools housed in private space inched down by $8 per pupil. Thus, the funding advantage for charter schools housed in public school buildings narrowed somewhat in 2010, while the funding disadvantage for charter schools housed in private space widened.

For background on how we did the comparisons and detailed tables of our calculations click here.

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