study says...

Report: Most city charter schools receive more per-pupil funds

Reversing its earlier findings, the city’s Independent Budget Office has concluded in a new study that most New York City charter schools receive more funding per student than their district school peers.

A year ago, an IBO study found that charter schools housed in public school buildings received $305 less per student than district schools for the 2008-09 school year. Now, the office has revised its methodology and has reached a very different conclusion.

In 2008-09, charter schools in district space were given $701 more per student than traditional public schools, the new study finds. For the 2009-10 school year, that disparity shrunk to $649.

Where the two studies do agree is on the question of funding for charter schools that are housed in private space. Roughly a third of New York City’s 98 charter schools fall into this category, and both studies found that they receive significantly less funding per student than district schools and charter schools in district space. The most recent report states:

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.

The IBO’s report did not examine the amount that charter schools raise through private philanthropy each year.

Looking ahead, the study’s authors suggest that the per-pupil funding gap between district schools and charters in district space is likely to widen as a result of the state legislature ending the charter school funding freeze. They write:

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.

In its explanation of its new methodology, the IBO states that unlike its last report, the new study does not include spending on transportation for special education students. It also doesn’t include the pension costs of special education teachers at district schools and it uses a new estimate for the cost of fringe benefits.

Department of Education officials have not commented on the report’s findings yet (I’ll post when they do), but a spokesman for the IBO, Doug Turetsky, said that DOE officials had asked the IBO to take down the report because they hadn’t had time to review it.

“We have no intention of pulling it down,” Turetsky said, adding that the IBO sent the study to the DOE last Thursday and received a response yesterday.

In her testimony before the legislature in Albany today, Chancellor Cathie Black seemed to agree with the report’s main conclusion that charter schools in district space receive more funding than district schools.

“It is not our goal to have more money on a continuing basis go to charter schools over district schools,” she told the elected officials. “There are ups and downs in the funding. This year it is true that there is a higher per student payment, but it will equal out.”

Chief Executive Officer of the New York City Charter School Center James Merriman said that he wished the IBO had incorporated former Chancellor Joel Klein’s recommendations for changes to its methodology that Klein suggested last year.

“My sense is taking into account the chancellor’s refinements to their mythology, the numbers come out more or less equal,” he said, suggesting that the disparity between district schools and charters in district space might be much smaller or even nonexistent.

The report “simply confirms what we’ve known all along, which is funding taken as a whole for the charter sector is less than funding for districts schools taken as a whole,” Merriman said.

Rise & Shine

While you were waking up, the U.S. Senate took a big step toward confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary

Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as education secretary is all but assured after an unusual and contentious early-morning vote by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate convened at 6:30 a.m. Friday to “invoke cloture” on DeVos’s embattled nomination, a move meant to end a debate that has grown unusually pitched both within the lawmaking body and in the wider public.

They voted 52-48 to advance her nomination, teeing up a final confirmation vote by the end of the day Monday.

Two Republican senators who said earlier this week that they would not vote to confirm DeVos joined their colleagues in voting to allow a final vote on Monday. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska cited DeVos’s lack of experience in public education and the knowledge gaps she displayed during her confirmation hearing last month when announcing their decisions and each said feedback from constituents had informed their decisions.

Americans across the country have been flooding their senators with phone calls, faxes, and in-person visits to share opposition to DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has been a leading advocate for school vouchers but who has never worked in public education.

They are likely to keep up the pressure over the weekend and through the final vote, which could be decided by a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

Two senators commented on the debate after the vote. Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has been a leading cheerleader for DeVos, said he “couldn’t understand” criticism of programs that let families choose their schools.

But Democrat Patty Murray of Washington repeated the many critiques of DeVos that she has heard from constituents. She also said she was “extremely disappointed” in the confirmation process, including the early-morning debate-ending vote.

“Right from the start it was very clear that Republicans intended to jam this nomination through … Corners were cut, precedents were ignored, debate was cut off, and reasonable requests and questions were blocked,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Week In Review

Week In Review: A new board takes on ‘awesome responsibility’ as Detroit school lawsuits advance

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The new Detroit school board took the oath and took on the 'awesome responsibility' of Detroit's children

It’s been a busy week for local education news with a settlement in one Detroit schools lawsuit, a combative new filing in another, a push by a lawmaker to overhaul school closings, a new ranking of state high schools, and the swearing in of the first empowered school board in Detroit has 2009.

“And with that, you are imbued with the awesome responsibility of the children of the city of Detroit.”

—    Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens, after administering the oath to the seven new members of the new Detroit school board

Read on for details on these stories plus the latest on the sparring over Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Here’s the headlines:


The board

The first meeting of the new Detroit school board had a celebratory air to it, with little of the raucous heckling that was common during school meetings in the emergency manager era. The board, which put in “significant time and effort” preparing to take office, is focused on building trust with Detroiters. But the meeting was not without controversy.

One of the board’s first acts was to settle a lawsuit that was filed by teachers last year over the conditions of school buildings. The settlement calls for the creation of a five-person board that will oversee school repairs.

The lawyers behind another Detroit schools lawsuit, meanwhile, filed a motion in federal court blasting Gov. Rick Snyder for evading responsibility for the condition of Detroit schools. That suit alleges that deplorable conditions in Detroit schools have compromised childrens’ constitutional right to literacy — a notion Snyder has rejected.


In Lansing

On DeVos

In other news