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Juan Gonzalez Misunderstands Charter School Funding

Publication Date: 
Monday, June 25, 2012

That's the most charitable way to read the Daily News columnist's coverage of Success Charter Network's request for a fee increase, which falsely implies that it would result in more public dollars flowing to the Harlem-based charter schools.

Let's be clear: neither the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, nor any other charter authorizer, determines how many taxpayer dollars go to charter schools. That amount is set by state law, through a per-pupil formula that is currently frozen at $13,527 in NYC. When any charter school enrolls a child, that's the amount that flows from NYC DOE, regardless of who operates the school. You can look it up.

Having received this funding, a charter school can choose to contract with a network such as Success, to pay a fee for a set of services related to the school's management. Since those fees are part of the school's agreement with its authorizer, the authorizer has an oversight role in approving any change in the fee agreement.

The "fees," in other words, are transfers within the charter school network, from individual schools to the network office. The "share of state education money" is unchanged.

This is not to say that this fee change, or any fee change, should be approved by the authorizer without scrutiny. Monitoring such arrangements is part of an authorizer's job, and if Gonzalez believes the fee change at Success will end up hurting its students, he should make that case.

Unfortunately, he seems to believe that Success Network's fees from its own charter schools are something "it receives from the state." That is false. The Daily News should run a correction, and Mr. Gonzalez should give his readers an accurate explanation.