Saturday, January 2, 2010

When has a governmental agency before financed a study, as DOE has done in this case, to publicize its own relative incompetence?

Here is a follow-up to our last post Study Commissioned by Tweed Demonstrates They Can't Run Schools as Effectively as Charter Managers

Make sure to check out Caroline from SF comments on that post and this post as she adds some interesting info and in fact casts some doubts on the truth of the press release. Caroline blogged about it at:

I posted the piece to Leonie's NYC Ed New listserve and there was a rousing debate that included Leonie, Steve Koss, Diane Ravitch, Deb Meier and others (a pretty good crew- and for those who support the ed deformers, consider the quality of the opposition). Diane compared it to Macy's telling people to go to Gimbels (I suggested a better comparison for the DOE would be Crazy Eddie). There were questions as to whether this was the Caroline Hoxby study.

Steve Koss says:

I don't believe [this is] the Hoxby study. Further down in the email thread is something sent to Norm from the P.R. firm (Larson Communications) that apparently works for Stanford/CREDO announcing a conference call on January 5 for their new report from a study that, it is explicitly stated, was commissioned by the NYCDOE. This appears to be a study directed specifically at NYC schools, charter and public, and (oh surprise of surprises) that the charter schools are better. I guess they (CREDO) doesn't intend to release the study for anyone to read or critique until after they've had their own chance to spin its findings -- maybe after that, it'll be available for those of us who haven't already sold out.

At this point, I don't see why Klein doesn't just throw in the towel, declare all of the public school real estate up for grabs, and "auction" it off to whomever wants to run charter schools. That's their consistent message -- it's not about choice, it's just about privatizing and de-unionizing. Then they could close down the DOE entirely and just leave a skeleton crew to oversee buying and selling of the rights to run a 100% charter/privatized school system.

Steve Koss

Leonie adds

I'd like to know who funded the CREDO study; is it also coming out of our taxpayer dollars?

DOE not only gives space for free to charter schools, but a host of other financial subsidies, some of them on a purely voluntary basis, and some preferentially to charter schools students (like transportation, which every charter school student has a matter of right.)

The other services that NYC charters receive for free are summarized on our blog at

School facility
Utilities- heat/electricity
Student transportation
Food services
District for Committee on Special Educations (CSE) Evaluations & Referrals
Assessment & testing accommodations
Safety & health services
Technology integration and infrastructure
Student placement and transitional services
Human resources (limited)
Integration policy (e.g. such as middle & HS choice process, promotion, shared space, etc..)
Public hearings
Serve as authorizing entity

There may be more as well as this list came from Michael Duffy of DOE and we know how forthcoming they are with transparent financial info.

Yet even this list caused Patrick Sullivan among others to estimate that charter schools probably receive a higher per student share of city funding than regular public school students, since the average amount that our schools receive for each gened student is about $8000, while charter schools receive more than $12,000 per student. They also are immune to mid-year cuts, as far as I know, which many principals say are the most damaging of all.

None of this financial analysis, of course, includes the hefty additional funding that most charter schools receive from private donors and foundations.

Charter schools receive more proportional space in buildings as the DOE instructional footprint admits. They are also allowed to cap enrollment and class size at any level they want-- which is the biggest advantage of all, in my mind. I have spoken to charter school teachers who said they left DOE-run schools specifically because they were provided with much smaller classes.

Though the NYC charter school lobby continually grouses about being unfairly underfunded, in the Tom Toch piece for Education Sector on charter management orgs, (that was partially censored to omit the most critical information, leading Toch to leave the organization that he had co-founded) a NYC charter school operator admitted that the financial subsidies they receive in NYC are very helpful:

With the annual funding that they get in New York City (some $12,440 per student, plus additional local and federal monies, a sum that Achievement First estimates to be between 80 percent and 95 percent of the funding that the city’s traditional schools receive), Achievement First’s New York schools are able to operate without philanthropic subsidies once they are fully enrolled, says chief financial officer Max Polaner—in sharp contrast to Amistad in New Haven. Says CEO Toll: “We expanded into New York because of Klein and because the dollars are doable.” But such partnerships have been rare, because school districts are wary of losing students and revenue to CMOs, and charter networks have wanted to preserve their independence.

In NYC they have put charter schools, supposedly temporarily, into newly constructed school buildings like Sunset Park HS, which is of questionable legality because these schools were built with 50% state matching funds -- funds that by law cannot be spent on charter school construction.

I have also looked at the financial statements of charter schools that do not include any estimate of the value of these myriad "in kind" contributions or subsidies from DOE -- which is contrary to good accounting practices that demand such estimates.

Ironically, the only NYC schools to really benefit from the CFE decision may in the end be the charter schools; because they can use the extra per pupil funding to provide the conditions that the court said would be necessary to afford children their constitutional right to an adequate education, including smaller classes. In contrast, since 2007, when the state granted additional aid to settle the CFE case, class sizes have significantly increased in our regular public schools, due to the malfeasance and mismanagement of Bloomberg and Klein.

This leads me to Steve's point: when has a governmental agency before financed a study, as DOE has done in this case, to publicize its own relative incompetence? Or in this case, their malignant failure to remediate the conditions that the state's highest court said would be necessary to provide a sound basic education?

Leonie Haimson


  1. I was interested to see that Larson Communications is described as representing Stanford and/or CREDO, because Larson Communications is a firm that specifically promotes charter schools. It's run by Gary Larson (not the one who used to do the fabulous "Far Side" cartoon), a longtime spokesman for the charter school industry.

  2. I did some online research and blogged an update:

  3. Please post something about the following article from EdWize about the closure of SCRL:

    Stephen Lee


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