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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.)

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Comments

I think this posting is wrong, or at least highly incomplete:

“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.”

As pointed out many times on the NYC parent blog and elsewhere, the DOE not only provides space to charter schools at no cost – but also transportation, heating and electricity, food, and custodial services, as well as other administrative and testing services.

Here is a partial list, provided by Michael Duffy, head of charter schools for DOE:

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

All of these services are provided free of charge, and are on top of the $12,000 plus per pupil payments to charter schools from state and city funds. All of them represent substantial subsidies in the form of “in-kind donations,” and yet I have yet to see any audited financial statement from a charter school in which the value of these subsidies are costed out or even estimated.

This is from the audited statement of PAVE charter school:

”The School shares space with a NYC public school…the School is not responsible for rent, utilities, custodial services, maintenance and school safety services other than security related to the school’s programs that take place outside the school day.”

Yet is the value of these contributions estimated or included anywhere in its financial statement, or that of any charter school? Not that I can see.

Transportation alone costs DOE over a billion dollars a year; and charter school students get preferential treatment as to transportation and no doubt a far larger share than their 2-3% share of the student population. That alone would amount to more than $30 million per year, if I’m counting zeros properly.

I also am curious about the fact that in nearly all the charter school financial statements I have looked at, there is reference to a separate letter from the auditor to the charter school, in which “certain other matters” are reported to the charter school, presumably weaknesses in fiscal management. Did you obtain those letters, through FOIL or otherwise, and if so, are you going to post them?

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