Bruce D. Baker and Richard Ferris, Rutgers University
In prominent Hollywood movies and even in some research studies, New York City (NYC)charter schools have been held up as unusually successful. This research brief presents a new study that analyzes the resources available to those charter schools, and it also looks at theirperformance on state standardized tests. The study reaches some surprising conclusions:Spending by NYC charter schools varies widely, and these differences in spending perpupil appear to be driven primarily by differences in access to private donors. The most well-endowed charters receive additional private funds exceeding $10,000 per pupilmore than traditional public schools receive. Other charters receive almost no privatedonations. (Th
e study‟s analysis is based on data from 2006 to 2008 contained in
audited annual financial reports, IRS tax filings of non-profit boards overseeing charterschools and charter management organizations.)Outcomes also vary widely. However, there is little or no relationship between spendingand test score outcomes after including appropriate controls. Some high-spending andsome low-spending charters perform well, while others perform quite poorly. The study also finds that charters are, on average, not outperforming non-charter publics in NYC.NYC charter schools serve, on average, far fewer students who are classified as EnglishLearners or who are very poor. Both groups of students require more resources to teachthan do other students, meaning that charters with lower enrollments of these moreresource-intensive students can devote their funding to other purposes.In fact, based on the differences in student needs, NYC charter schools should receiveapproximately $2,500 less in per-pupil support than the average funding received by same-grade-level traditional public schools. The assumption that these charter schoolsshould receive support equal traditional public schools is incorrect, because they do notserve similar populations.
About half of the NYC‟s
charters are given a public facility by the city Board of Education
(BOE). This places half of the City‟s charters in a much better financial situation than the
other half. After controlling for the populations served, the study finds that charter schools nothoused in BOE facilities receive $517 less in public funding than do non-charters.