The Best Case for Returning to the Funding Formula

By Michael Pih

And the funding gap between charters and the district continues to grow…

The IBO released an updated report comparing public spending for charter schools to traditional district schools, and its analysis is clear: not only do NYC charter schools receive less in public spending than their district counterparts, but this funding disparity continues to grow. Our analysis of the IBO’s report of the 2014-15 school year showed, on average, a funding disparity of over $1,400 per pupil up from the $250 less per pupil received in 2009-10. In the current school year (2016-17), the IBO reports that charter schools will again receive substantially less per pupil regardless of whether it operates in public or private space; the IBO estimates that charters are underfunded compared to traditional district schools by $1,145 to $4,863 per pupil.[1]

As the Charter Center has previously noted (here and here), there are additional costs – specifically those associated with the DOE’s pension obligations – not included in the IBO analysis that tend to underestimate the true per pupil expenses of traditional district schools. Nonetheless, this increasing underfunding of charter schools highlights just how important it is that the calculation of charter school per pupil funding return to the statutory formula. Given that much of the costs associated with the collective bargaining agreements between the DOE and the UFT were backloaded, the district’s operating expenses will continue to see significant increases in the next few years.[2] Without commensurate increases to the charter per pupil in the coming years, charter schools will face even steeper financial burdens.

[1] In our last analysis of the IBO’s report, the available data allowed us to compute weighted averages given the IBO’s estimates of student enrollment in charters by facility type. In its updated report, the IBO does not provide these student enrollment estimates for computed weighted averages.

[2] The final lump sum payment negotiated in the collective bargaining agreements will be distributed in October 2020.