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2 posts from January 2010

January 13, 2010

Charter School Expenses 2009

Like we did last year, we used the 2008-2009 financial audits to calculate charter school expenses per pupil for the 77 charter schools operating during the year. This provides a sense of how much charter schools are spending, including philanthropy and other sources, above the $12,432 per pupil provided by the DOE. We've found this number is often elusive or non-existent, so we've tried to rectify that situation here. Our main findings were that while total charter school expenses increased over the past year by 8 percent per pupil, the average amount spent by each charter school above the base level provided by the DOE was 13% less than in 2007-2008. This could be partly be due to the decline in per pupil philanthropy, a trend we detailed in an earlier post, but we can't be sure. The workbook with all our calculations is available here.

The total expenses for the 77 schools were $342,825,475 compared to $236,230,149 in 2007-2008 – a 45% increase, largely reflecting the significant increase in the number of charter school students. The per-pupil expenses for 2008-2009 were $14,456--$1,095, or 8% more, than in 2007-2008. For the 2008-09 school year, the “base funding” per pupil, i.e. the fixed amount per pupil received from the DOE regardless of demographics, was $12,432. So spending on the average student was $2,024 above the base amount. This is $314 less than the $2,338 spent above the base in 2007-2008. Thus, while the base funding amount increased by 13%, from $11,023 to $12,432, the amount charter schools spent above these numbers was actually 13% less in ’08-’09. Unlike in our philanthropy analysis, if you analyze  charter schools by those with CMOs, EMOs, or CGOs, the numbers are similar across the board.

These expense numbers include an estimated value of the services rendered by charter management organizations for the benefit of the school as well as other in-kind services, such as free legal help or subsidized rent.  Since DOE space is given free to traditional public schools, it is not included in expense calculations for schools that are housed in public space. (It should be noted that some schools, such as the Carl C. Icahn Charter School in the Bronx, do estimate the value of the space provided to them by the DOE.)

Similarly, the numbers do not include the value of other services provided free by the DOE to both charter and traditional public schools like transportation, custodial services, and utilities. Additionally, we did not consider the demographics of the population served (i.e. ELL, Special Education, etc). A school like Opportunity Charter School, which serves a large special education population, spent $27,844 per pupil —almost twice the average. In the future we hope to perform an analysis that takes these characteristics into account.

Obviously it would be interesting to compare these numbers to traditional public schools; however the comparison is complicated by some of the same issues discussed above.

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 schools for per pupil expenses. KIPP seems to run some network-wide expenses through KIPP Academy.

3. We removed the New York Center for Autism.

4. We included fundraising expenses (although we broke them out on our spreadsheet for those who are curious to see how much charter schools spend on fundraising).

As always, we’d love to get feedback from charter school operators and informed readers so that we can improve this analysis!

January 04, 2010

UFT Charter Study: A Correction

Today, the UFT issued a report comparing New York City Charter Schools to the public schools in their respective geographic districts. One of the most striking findings, used as the lead figure in the Daily News article on the report, was that in the South Bronx, 62% of charter school students are poor enough to qualify for free lunch, compared with 87% in the district public schools. It seems to us that the underlying data contains a significant bug.

According to Appendix A of the UFT’s report, the South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures and the Arts has no students that qualify for free or reduced price lunch (the first two columns after the enrollment data, highlighted in yellow below). These figures were gathered from the 2007-2008 New York State Accountability Reports, which did indeed show a 0% figure, despite the fact that the school had 100% and 85% of its students qualify for free and reduced price lunch during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years respectively.

Source: “Separate and Unequal: The Failure of New York City Charter Schools to Serve the City’s Neediest Students,” page 15. Available: http://www.uft.org/news/issues/uft_report-separate_and_unequal.pdf

Why this data is missing from the State Accountability report is anyone’s guess. The school itself, however, in its 2007-2008 Annual Report to the Department of Education, did include the required demographic data. The chart below shows that for the 2007-2008 school year, the South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures and the Arts had 71% of its students qualify for free and reduced lunch. (Note: the discrepancy between the enrollment data listed here versus that in the UFT’s report is probably due to the fact that the UFT used enrollment data from the 2008-2009 Progress reports for some of the charter schools, but used demographic data from the 2007-2008 State Accountability Reports.)

Source: “2007-2008 Annual Report,” page 17. Available: http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/72A59169-8CF9-45FF-8A8F-72F51DE43284/0/SBCSICA.pdf

Unfortunately, the data isn’t broken out into the number of students that qualified for free lunch versus reduced price lunch. Nonetheless, if the data for the South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures and the Arts is included in the first column (the calculation of students qualifying for free and reduced price lunch), approximately 83% of students in charter schools qualified for free or reduced price lunch compared to 92% of students in public schools. Clearly, the discrepancy still exists—it’s just not as large as the UFT would have the press believe.