In a request by Patrick Sullivan, the Manhattan Borough president’s appointed representative to the Panel of Education Policy, the Independent Budget Office (IBO) focused their latest audit on per pupil funding allocations of taxpayer dollars to charter versus public schools.
The final results, with no surprise, were murky as to whether there is a clean cut winner or loser. Charter school supporters were more than eager to point out that despite claims made by their detractors, children in charter schools actually received less funding per head. The differences ranged from $305 for charter schools students on city owned property and shot up to $3,017 for schools that reside in private buildings. Charter school spending was compared to an average spending per pupil of $16,678 for a traditional public school student.
However public school defenders led by UFT President Michael Mulgrew shot back saying:
The difference between funding for public schools and charter schools in public buildings is negligible; when you add in the private funding that many charter schools get, I’m sure that we’ll find that many charter schools have resources that are well beyond those of public schools
Also the IBO notes the benefits of pass-through services provided by the Department of Education, especially those charters housed within already existing public schools. This arrangement allows them to avoid paying for much of the operational costs involved in maintaining a private building. This is further framed in the IBO report:
More than two-thirds of charter schools in New York City are located in public school buildings, a practice that is not common in the rest of the country. For charter schools housed in public school buildings, the arrangement is financially advantageous. IBO estimates that the value of the savings for these charter schools on facility, utility, and school safety costs is $2,712 per student.
However the Department of Education believes that the spending gap is larger between the charter and public schools, while the IBO points out that the current state financing laws for charter schools are designed to fund less money per student.
Charter School advocates like James Merriman of the New York City Charter School Center compared this to other inequality laws; however, he believes they are destined to be struck down as we see the benefits of the charter model grow over time.
As is always the case with charter versus public the discussion continues…
Sidenote: This wasn’t the only news Patrick Sullivan had his name attached to. Check out this article in the current Village Voice about an Upper East side school living two different lives