Study: Charging Rent Would Lead to Charter-School Decline

by Alec Torres

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is no fan of charter schools, having threatened to charge the schools rent and create stricter regulations for co-location — the practice whereby charter schools occupy underused space in traditional district public schools.

Though de Blasio has not unveiled the specifics of his policy toward charter schools, the Manhattan Institute has released a report to determine what would happen to charter schools if the mayor charged rent at the rate the Independent Budget Office recommended. The effect would not be fatal, but would cause large financial harm to the institutions and potentially educational harm to the students.

The Manhattan Institute determined that 71 percent of co-located charter schools would have run a deficit in 2011–12 if they had been charged rent that school year. Considering salaries and benefits make up about 70 percent of co-located charter schools’ budgets, the study predicts that 60 of the 119 co-located charter schools would be required to lay off hundreds of staff — tens of teachers and administrators per school.

Charter schools are already oversubscribed. Seventy-thousand students currently attend charter schools in New York and there are another 54,000 students on waiting lists. There are a total of 183 charter schools in New York, students of which, by-and-large, outperform their traditional district school peers in both math and English.

The author of the report, Stephen Eide, concludes that “some of the strongest schools would be affected by charging rent” and that “charging rent would result in fewer high-performing schools in New York City.”