Charter schools to get 100% of funds as public schools face cuts, say education advocates

Classroom Progress Report

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York’s public school districts must fully fund charter schools in the upcoming school year, according to a nonprofit public education advocacy organization.

The Alliance for Quality Education, based in Albany, says that even as public schools face those 20% cuts in state aid, they must pay 100% of tuition for charters. Charter schools enroll 6% of students statewide.

Charter schools receive public funds while independent, private groups are “chartered” to control the curriculum, enrollment, tuition, and every other aspect of operations. As private entities, they are not always subject to the same oversight from municipalities or the state as are traditional public schools. They’re considered publicly funded but privately run.

Charter schools receive state and federal dollars—including emergency coronavirus education grants—but their nonprofit or corporate status also grants access to the Paycheck Protection Program. In New York, 144 charter schools have received at least $126 million in PPP loans.

PPP loans are forgivable. Meanwhile—as conservative think tank the Empire Center describes—”The Cuomo administration is mitigating an estimated $9.4 billion drop in tax and other revenues in part by withholding 20% of scheduled school aid payments. Districts can’t borrow to pay for operating costs, and they’ve had to reduce spending on the assumption that the aid cuts will be permanent.”

The Alliance says the impacts of charter school payments will be felt the most by districts with the most charter schools.

Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and New York City schools—with over a million public school students between them—could lose nearly $3 billion because of those 20% cuts. Those four largest districts paid $2.5 billion in charter tuition payments for the 2019 to 2020 school year.

(Source: Alliance for Quality Education)

“Gov. Cuomo and the state legislature must act now to change the statute obligating districts receiving a 20% cut in funding to pay 100% of the tuition to privately run charter schools,” the Alliance urges.

According to the NYS Budget Division:

“This is just not true as there has been no cut to school aid, even as we’ve waited six months for the Federal government to deliver the resources the State needs to offset a $62 billion, four-year revenue loss. Instead, the failure of the Federal government to act has forced the State to temporarily withhold less than 1 percent of school funding. We will work with our partners in government to address any remaining gaps in federal assistance and, in the absence of Federal funding, any future aid withholdings will take school district need into consideration. If the advocacy industrial complex really wanted to help, it would turn its attention to Washington and work with us to get the assistance New York’s children  deserve.”

Freeman Klopott
Press Officer
NYS Division of the Budget

Klopott says New York has temporarily withheld $300 million since June. This represents a fraction of 1% of the $75 billion in total school revenue, and $8.1 billion of the state’s $26.4 billion of school aid for this fiscal year has already been paid.

Check out the Wednesday release from the Alliance for Quality Education:

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