NEPC Review: Charter School Funding: Inequity in New York City (University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, August 2017)
A report by researchers at the University of Arkansas concludes that charter schools in New York City are not fairly funded, in comparison to district schools. The report asserts that this inequity is especially big for charter schools that are not co-located in public schools; and describes expenditure patterns across schools that show no clear differences between charter schools and district schools. This review of the report raises several concerns. Perhaps most importantly, the report simply does not attempt a rigorous comparison across schools. It assumes that any differences in student characteristics across charter and district schools are trivial, therefore concluding that raw, unadjusted funding amounts are sufficient for assessing fairness. It does not undertake any sensitivity testing to identify the precision of its estimates, nor does it investigate in detail what the optimal amount of funding should be for charter schools that are not co-located in public school buildings. Finally, New York City has significantly reformed its funding regulations for charter schools since the data upon which the report is based were collected, rendering the report’s estimates policy-irrelevant.