NEPC Review: Should Charter Schools Pay Rent? Implications for Staffing and Growth
The recently released report Should Charter Schools Pay Rent? from the Manhattan Institute reflects concerns of charter advocates and operators regarding potential policy changes under New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio. The report asserts that charging charter schools rent would cause many to run budget deficits large enough to result in staffing reductions, likely leading to a reduction in high-performing charter schools and thus, “fewer good schools” overall. The report presents 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.” But the central problem with the report is that the author assumes that there exists no possible downside when resources are transferred from city schools to charter schools. The assumption is that providing these subsidies benefits charters and harms no one and that not providing these subsidies harms charters and benefits no one. The policy brief entirely ignores the broader and more complex policy questions of what it takes to manage a balanced and equitable portfolio of schooling options.