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4 posts from December 2009

December 23, 2009

Charter School Philanthropy 2009

In an earlier post, Ken reviewed some philanthropy statistics for New York City charter schools. The data was culled from the 2007-2008 audited financial statements that charter schools are required to submit to their authorizer—the SED, SUNY, or the DOE—usually sometime in October. This post reviews the updated statistics based on 2008-2009 audits. A database of the audits as well as a file containing all of the "Statement of Activities" pages is available here. You can see our calculations in this workbook.

The total amount of philanthropic contributions for the 77 schools was $31,302,550. The total enrollment was 23,715. (Enrollment information was taken from the 2008-2009 Learning Environment Survey data, which seems to have the most comprehensive information.) This comes out to a per pupil calculation of $1,320—a 9% drop from the 2007-2008 audits, which had a per pupil contribution of $1,443. The statistics on the school level were basically unchanged from last year. The average school philanthropy per pupil was $1,651 in 2007-2008 compared to $1,654 and the median school philanthropy per pupil was $1,092 compared to $1,081.

Many more schools had per-pupil decreases in philanthropy than increases. 53%, or 31 schools, lost money per pupil in 2008-2009. 21%, or 12 schools, gained money per pupil. 15 schools did not have significant changes in per-pupil philanthropy. (We used $100 per pupil as a cutoff for “significant”.)

In order to get a more complete picture, we decided to look at schools that did not have Charter Management Organizations (CMOs), since the amount of philanthropy that a given school benefits from could be understated depending on the philanthropic donations that were given to the larger CMO. We will have a post on CMO philanthropy in the future.

There were 44 schools in 2008-2009 that did not have a CMO (these schools were either Community Grown Organizations (CGOs) or had for-profit Educational Management Organizations (EMOs)). The total amount of philanthropic contributions for these schools was $13,188,546 and the total enrollment was 13,267. This comes out to a per pupil calculation of $994—almost exactly the same for the 33 non-CMO schools in 2007-2008, which had a per pupil contribution of $1000. The percentage of schools that lost money, gained money, or stayed the same per pupil was the same as the data with the CMO charters included. For schools that had a CMO, their per pupil philanthropy came out to $1,734, which is $740 more than charter schools without CMOs.*

To be clear, these calculations do not take into account the value of the space that is sometimes granted by the DOE but they do include in-kind donations and restricted funds. Like we did last year, we included the money collected during fundraising events but did not subtract out fundraising expenses.

Here are some additional notes:

1. We subtracted out KIPP to College costs because these amounts are not used for current students. This is their alumni program.

2. We averaged across KIPP and Achievement First schools for per pupil philanthropy. These schools route disproportionate amounts of their philanthropy through one school.

3. We removed The New York Center for Autism. 

As always, we encourage charter school operators and other readers to help us to further improve these calculations.

*This paragraph has been updated since this post was first published. It more closely reflects the number of charter schools with CMOs. (Some organizations were counted as CMOs that, upon closer consideration, did not provide the same services a traditionally-defined CMO would.)

December 16, 2009

How to Game the System

New York State lawmakers recently created a new public pension system ("Tier 5") that they hope will save about $48 billion over 30 years.  You can read about it here and here.  The "Tier 5" system applies to state public employees as well as New York City teachers hired after January 1st, 2010.  Existing employees will continue to benefit from the more generous "Tier 4" system.

Tom Carroll's twitter feed referred me to a detailed guide for future state teachers to game the system.  "[T]here is still a very small window -- a matter of days -- for future members to still lock in Tier 4... You can join Tier 4 by substituting ONE day."  Please read the entire guide if that one quote doesn't sufficiently annoy you.  Thanks to the New York State teachers' union for this helpful public service.

December 01, 2009

Form 990s: Compensation at Charter Schools

In a previous entry, we posted a database of all of the available tax-filings—known as Form 990s—for New York City charter schools. Since the filings are often lengthy and complicated, we have attempted to parse some of the information. In this analysis, we examined the compensation data available in the 990s to better understand compensation as compared to traditional public schools. To see the results of our survey, you can download our spreadsheet here.

Some key findings:

• The average salary of the top earner at a charter school or CMO is $169,772. The median is $145,000. If you factor in other costs, like pensions and expense accounts, the average is $186,828 and the median is $158,928. For reference, the average superintendent salary (including regional and community superintendents) is $177,785, according to data provided by SeeThroughNY.

• The highest salary for a charter school leader or CMO executive is $494,269 ($515,258 with pension and expense accounts). The lowest salary is $86,057 (there were no listed pension or expense accounts for this person). 

• The amount of executive compensation varied significantly from school to school, with some charter schools paying their top 5 earners over $90,000 and others with only one person listed above $80,000.

• The average salary for a charter school principal is $120,454. The median is $124,000. The average salary for a DOE principal is $133,680 and the median is $133,490, according to data provided by SeeThroughNY. (Note: We did not include pension data because this was only available for charter school principals and not available for traditional DOE principals.)

Our methods:

Non-profit charter schools are required to list the top five earners at their school as well as the number of employees that make over $50,000 in their 990 filing. However, charter schools are sometimes controlled by larger Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) that are responsible for the management and backroom support of several charter schools in New York City and elsewhere. (Uncommon Schools, Inc. and Achievement First, Inc. are two examples of such CMOs). These CMOs are often the source of the compensation data for the executive directors of schools and networks of schools. Additionally, charter schools often set up related charitable organizations, usually known as “Friends of X School,” through which employees at the school are compensated in addition to the salary listed on the school’s 990 filing. Thus, in order to get as comprehensive a sense as possible of total compensation both within an individual school as well as its larger CMO, we looked at the “Related Organizations” line on the 990 and then found the tax filing for the organizations listed. (A full database of these filings is available here.) This data, combined with our original 990 database, is what we used to determine the top earner at each charter school as well as the top earner in each charter school network. (If a charter school was not run by a separate CMO, we simply used the data listed on the 990 for the school itself.)

We have listed the school’s name, the salary of the top earner as well as the salary including pension and expense accounts, the title of the top earner, and whether or not this top earner was an employee of a related organization. We have chosen not to include names, although all of this information is available on the 990 filings. In addition to this data, we also looked at the top five earners in each specific charter school to get a sense of how pay was distributed across the individual schools. Included in this analysis are the job titles of the top earners, listed in order from highest paid to lowest. Finally, we compared principal compensation at charter schools versus traditional public schools (these are the last two pages of the spreadsheet). Inconsistencies, either in reporting from a particular school or in our methodology, are noted in the spreadsheet.

As always, if you have any questions about our approach or any helpful criticism, post it in the comments section below.

Charter School Form 990 Filings: 2007 - 2008

In March, Ken wrote a post that discussed the information available on the “IRS Form 990”—the required federal filing for tax-exempt organizations, which includes charter schools. The Form 990s contain data about fundraising, spending, and leadership compensation.

This post provides updated data for the 2007-2008 school year. Reports for 2008-2009 are unavailable because the forms are filed several months after the reporting period. Additionally, many charter schools opt to file for an extension. Thus, the forms are usually submitted in April of the following year.

Since Form 990 filings can be difficult to find, we have compiled a database of the forms for 64 out of the 80 charter schools that were open in 2008. Of the 16 schools without forms, fourteen are schools that opened in the fall of 2008 (and thus didn’t have a 2007-2008 report). Two schools that were open during the 2007-2008 year, East New York Preparatory Charter School and Harlem Village Academy Charter School, had forms that were unavailable as of this writing.

You can view a spreadsheet of the schools, their grades, the years in which they opened, and whether or not they filed a Form 990 here. The full database of all of the Form990s is located here.

In a following post, we will examine in further detail some of the interesting information available in these reports, including leadership compensation.