This brief explores the financial resources of New York City charter schools. It also addresses differences in student population characteristics and student outcomes across New York City (NYC) charter schools, and evaluates how financial resources translate to other schooling inputs, such as more or less experienced teachers and smaller or larger class sizes.
These schools are examined within the broader context of school funding equity and factors that other research has shown to have the potential to advance or disrupt educational equity. In American public education, funding equity involves multiple levels, linked to the multiple levels of our school systems. State systems govern local public school districts, with schools nested within districts. Public charter schools are either nested within districts or operate as independent entities.
NYC charter schools are of particular interest to national audiences mainly because they have been used to argue that charter schools outperform public schools and that New York's experience with charter schools suggests a transferable, nationally scalable policy option. Three studies concerning NYC charter schools in particular are frequently cited: Dobbie & Fryer, 2009; Hoxby, Murarka and Kang, 2009; and CREDO, 2009.
It is important to note, however, that the NYC context may be unique in terms of the role played by philanthropy and so-called venture philanthropy. Significant philanthropic attention has been focused on charter management organizations like the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) and Achievement First, which manage charter schools in NYC and elsewhere. NYC charter schools are both touted and blasted in the popular media as being the new favored charities of, for example, wealthy hedge fund managers. The extent that NYC charters have become philanthropic favorites means that NYC charter schools may be quite different from those in places like Missouri or Arizona, distant from the NYC philanthropic culture. In fact, even charter schools in Albany and Buffalo or across the river in New Jersey may be insulated from this unique financial setting. Therefore, additional philanthropic resources may explain a great deal of the claimed success of NYC charter schools. If this is the case, attempts to replicate or scale up these supposed successes would be more difficult and costly than assumed.
This brief offers concrete information about NYC charters and their finances to help ground these important policy discussions.
This brief is published by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), and is one of a series of briefs made possible in part by funding from The Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.