Selected readings on US charter schools
The policy group Save Our States reports that charters in public school buildings cost more than $3,000 less per student less than regular public schools.
The big difference? Pensions and health costs for teachers and other staff are substantially higher for the traditional, unionized public schools compared to charters, which offer their employees 401ks rather than more generous defined benefit plans.
The findings comes as Democrat Bill de Blasio vows to charge some charter schools housed in Department of Education buildings rent if he become mayor. Republican candidate Joe Lhota says he would continue to provide charters — publicly-funded, but privately managed schools — free space.
The report shows that when fully accounting for pension and health cost liabilities, regular public schools cost $19,822 to $20,283 per student.
By comparison, charter schools co-located in city school buildings cost $16,660.
The report claimed a 2010 study done by the city Independent Budget Office severely under-counted the full value and liability of pension and retiree health costs of the district public schools.
The IBO study estimated the per student cost for charters located in city facilities was $16,011 compared to $16,660 for district public schools — or $449 less. Critics of charter schools pounced on the data, claiming charter s were getting preferential treatment.
But study co-author Harry Wilson — a nationally renowned pension expert who served on President Obama’s auto restructuring task force — said the IBO analysis under-reported the pension and health liabilities by
$3,500 to $4,000 per student, or 24 to 27 percent.
“We knew that education would be an important issue in the mayor’s race. Policy decisions should be based on facts, not guesses,” Wilson said.
The de Blasio campaign declined comment, pending a review of the study.
Wilson, the Republican candidate for state comptroller in 2010, said he relied on more rigorous accounting pension and benefits standards used by corporate American in conducting his analysis. It more fully takes into account future liabilities in tabulating annual costs.
“It’s fraudulent for municipalities to have different standards than corporate America,” Wilson told The Post
“New York City’s top line financial disclosures do no show these future payments as current liabilities. Nevertheless, they can be calculated on a prevent value basis and should be included when determining the total amount of public support for district public school teachers and education staff.”
But other education sources questioned the findings, saying it’s no surprise that charter schools have lower pension and health costs because they are newer schools with a younger teaching staff.
The IBO defended its report.
“Our report reflected what the city actually paid. We don’t know what the city will owe down the line,” said IBO spokesman Doug Turetsky.
Turetsky said assumptions for pension liabilities always change. “He asking us to do what the Bloomberg administration didn’t do,” he said.
Source: NY Post – by Carl Campanile