Report on NYC Charter School Rent Is Poorly Documented, Ignores Half the Equation
NEPC reviewer finds Manhattan report speculative and of little policy use
William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058,firstname.lastname@example.org
Bruce Baker, (732) 932-7496, x8232,email@example.com
BOULDER, CO (February 20, 2014) – New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has suggested charging rent to charter schools that use buildings owned by the NYC public school district. This policy proposal prompted the Manhattan Institute, a think tank favoring expansive charter school policies, to issue a report criticizing de Blasio’s plan.
The Manhattan report claims charging charter schools rent would cause many to run budget deficits that would force them to cut staffs and lower their quality. But a new review of that report finds no merit in its conclusions.
Professor Bruce Baker, a school finance expert at Rutgers University, reviewed Should Charter Schools Pay Rent? for the Think Twice think tank review project at the National Education Policy Center. The review is published today by the NEPC, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.
The Manhattan report was written by an institute researcher, Stephen Eide, who concludes that charging charter schools rent would lead to budget deficits. According to the report, these deficits could, in turn, force staff reductions, diminishing the number of high-performing charter schools and therefore leading to “fewer good schools” overall.
Baker’s review explains that the report consists primarily of “a handful of poorly documented tables and graphs listing potential budget deficits, speculative layoffs, and average proficiency rates of co-located and non-co-located charter schools, few if any of which actually validate the author’s conclusions regarding the impact of charging rent on the growth of ‘good schools.’”
The report’s central problem, according to Baker, is its assumption “that providing these subsidies benefits charters and harms no one, and that not providing these subsidies harms charters and benefits no one.” Given a set amount of resources, shifting from city schools to charter schools, or vice versa, clearly has both winners and losers.
Because the brief ignores these broader and more complex policy questions about managing a balanced and equitable portfolio of schooling options, and because of its poor documentation of fundamental calculations, Baker finds the report to be of little or no policy value.