Pauvre, Pauvre NYC Charter Schools?

There’s nothing really new in this post. I’m just revisiting data and figures that I’ve addressed over and over in this blog – drawn from this report and this conference paper. I’m reposting this information because many seem to quickly forget or totally ignore what we already know and the current debate over whether the city of New York should charge charter schools rent is clouded by the usual mix of non-information, lack of information, disinformation and catchy (though false) statements on t-shirts.

These data are from 2008-2010 and at some point I will update these analyses. But, while downloading, parsing and analyzing NYC district school data is relatively straightforward, it  remains a more burdensome task to get a complete picture of charter school financing in NYC and most other locations for that matter (searching through non-profit filings, etc.). That, in and of itself, raises serious accountability concerns [see the extent of footnotes needed in the above report to clarify our various concerns over clarity, completeness, accuracy and precision of charter school financial reporting].

Another important note is that conditions in district schools in New York City have continued to decline… with larger and larger class sizes each year… and persistent underfunding of the state school finance system. Thus, it is quite possible that the class size and other advantages charters held over district schools between 2008 and 2010 are much greater now.

So, what do we know about NYC charter schools? [and to be clear, this is an NYC specific issue… which, if you read the above report and paper… plays out differently, for example, in Ohio and Texas]

First, NYC charter schools have historically served much less needy student populations than their same grade level district school counterparts in the same borough of the city:


Second, New York City charter schools in many cases spend far more on a per pupil basis than do district schools serving similar student populations, at the same grade level in the same borough.


Third, Class Sizes at the elementary and middle school level tend, on average to be smaller, and in many cases much smaller (5 to 10 students per class smaller) in charter schools than in district schools.


Fourth, even with these resource advantages, New York City charter schools show very mixed performance outcomes compared to same grade level district schools serving similar student populations in the same borough.


My intent here is not to argue whether the city should or should not charge $2,700 per pupil rent to charters. Clearly, the effect of such a policy would fall disparately across charter school operators – where some are far more advantaged than others.  It is important that we not simply accept the rhetoric of the pauvre, pauvre charter school that faces such awful mistreatment under possible city policy changes.

The big issue here – the overarching issue – regards the extent of inequities in access to resources that persist across the city system. Inequities exist across district schools by neighborhood and students served.

An important finding in the figures above is that huge inequities persist within the charter sector – a sector that has been selectively advantaged by the current administration’s policies over the past decade.

Whoever becomes the next Mayor of NYC must consider how the whole system fits together and how that system can generate the best distribution of opportunities for all children.

Equity is a necessary concern and one that is not resolved by providing, endorsing or expanding choices among inequitable alternatives.

Maps of NYC Charter and District School % Free Lunch 2010-11 (NCES Common Core of Data)

Mapping NYC Charter Schools

harlem charters

Bronx ChartersBkln charters

One thought on “Pauvre, Pauvre NYC Charter Schools?

  1. Not just an issue in NYC. Albany has more charters per capita than anywhere else in NY (and possibly US). And the cancer has spread to other upstate cities. Not to mention that NYSED’s chief executive came from charter school movement.

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