Can We Learn from New York City’s Charters? Maybe!

by Sue Legg

Problems with charter school management are easy to identify, but finding a way forward is more difficult.  Some NYC charter schools  are closing the achievement gap.  How are they doing it?  We will do a series of posts on the claims and the cautions about these results.  First, let’s talk about how traditional public schools and charters operate in New York.  You may be surprised.  Look at differences in public school management, charter school facilities, and funding.  

Most NYC public schools and 46% of charter schools are either managed by non-profit private companies or independently run.  For-profit companies may no longer apply to manage charter schools.  Board members are prohibited from any association with the management company.  A third of Florida’s charters are run by for-profit companies.

Public school students have choice options at middle and high schools, and some have long waiting lists.   Charter schools may either share space without charge in public schools or obtain leases paid on a per square foot basis by the city.  Co-location may cause conflict when public schools are crowded, and charters take space they need.  Long waiting lists at charters are questioned.  See the NEPC 2014 article:  “Wait, Wait, Don’t Mislead Me”.  Since charters also are half the enrollment of TPS, they often have more space per student.

Not only do charters receive the same per student funding, $13,777 in state money plus federal start-up money, some are reported to receive an additional $4,000 per student from investment firms.  It should also be noted, however, that the Gates Foundation gave $8,149,935 to one of the  public school management firms, New Visions for Public Schools, to support Common Core.

Student demographics for charters and public schools differ.  In traditional public schools, 70% of the students are African American or Hispanic compared to 92% in charter schools.  The percentages of students on free and reduced lunch are similar. Most charter schools are located in Harlem or in the South Bronx. Few charters exist anywhere else in New York. Students with disabilities or English language learners are underrepresented in New York’s charter schools.

In our next post, we will look at data comparing achievement for public and charter schools in New York.

Sources for more information:




Posted in Charter School Management, Facilities, New York, Public Education.

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