Charter schools in New York City receive almost 40% less funding per student than traditional public schools — $26,560 for NYC Department of Education schools compared to $15,983 for charter schools, a new study by researchers at the University of Arkansas shows.
A quarter of funding for charter schools comes in the form of in-kind support, but even with in-kind resources that include free facility space, food services and transportation support, and instructional materials, there's still a funding gap of 18.7% between charter and district schools.
Charter schools that are co-located in buildings with traditional public schools have an advantage over those that have their own facility because they are more likely to receive in-kind support, and overall, students in the city’s charters are more likely to come from low-income families than those in district schools.
The researchers suggest that New York state’s Fair Student Funding program, which gives school leaders more flexibility over funding and includes incentives for schools to serve struggling students, seems to have "yielded a more progressive geographic pattern of education funding to New York City," but has by no means leveled the field between charter and district schools.
The study is likely to add to charter supporters’ arguments that the schools are still being "shortchanged" by traditional systems. Supporters also point to rising test scores in the city, noting that charter schools saw greater gains than district schools.
In some states, however, studies suggest charter schools are having a negative financial impact on traditional schools by leading to declining enrollment. In a 2015 report from the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University, researchers wrote that "enrollment changes including those associated with school choice policies" partly contributed to districts’ "fiscal stress."