Study Finds Higher Charter School Spending on Administration

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Critics of charter schools have been raising more questions lately about the financial aspects of the schools and the networks that run them. An analysis of the mayor's proposed budget for the next school year seems to indicate that the city will spend $51 million to open more than two dozen new charter schools, even as the city Department of Education faces a deficit that will result in cuts to other services and, at the very least, flat spending for city schools.

Now comes a study of charter school spending in Michigan, as Sean Cavanaugh reports in his Charters & Choice blog in Education Week, that indicates elevated spending on administrative costs in charter schools.

The study, released by the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, at Teachers College, Columbia University, examines school spending in Michigan and concludes that charter schools spend more per-pupil on administration and less on instruction than traditional public schools, even when controlling for enrollment, student populations served, and other factors.

Specifically, "they found that charters spend $774 more per pupil on administration, and $1,140 less on instruction, than do traditional publics."

Why? The authors of the study speculate that charters spend less on teacher salaries than do public schools, which are usually unionized. Their teaching staff is often less experienced and therefore has lower salaries.

"Charters' outsized administrative spending ... is simultaneously matched by exceptionally low instructional spending," the study says. "If one were searching for a contemporary reform to shift resources from classroom instruction to adminiitration, it is hard to imagine one that could accomplish this as decisively as charter schools have done in Michigan."

The study is likely to energize the critics of charters in the city, especially as the budget process moves forward and the actual costs of opening more charters becomes more clear.

Gotham Schools picked up on a city news release on Tuesday, reporting that:

One of the Department of Education’s longest-serving top deputies is leaving — but he won’t be going far.

The city announced late Monday that Michael Best, the department’s chief lawyer since 2004, would return to City Hall, where he was a top deputy to Mayor Bloomberg at the beginning of the mayor’s tenure. Now, he will be counselor to the mayor, a position that is being vacated by the new pick for president of New York Law School.

Best’s replacement at the DOE, Courtenaye Jackson-Chase, has been at the department for more than half a decade. Chancellor Dennis Walcott promoted her to become Best’s second in command last May during a slew of leadership appointments a month into his tenure.

On this cloudy, rainy Wednesday -- a good sleep-in date for those public school students and staff members on spring break -- the state Assembly Education Committee will be putting a focus on the schools.

Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott will testify at the hearing Wednesday morning looking into "the New York City School District's implementation of federal school intervention models in persistently lowest-achieving schools" -- models like turnaround, which are very much in the news right now. The hearing begins at 10:30 a.m. at 250 Broadway, 19th floor, and Mr. Walcott is expected to testify at 11 a.m.