New York City’s charter schools are often held up as exemplary, which is the spin that the Bloomberg administration has fed the media for a dozen years. This insider says the spin is wrong.

He writes:

The current mayoral election in New York City has brought long overdue debate and discussion to the real outcomes of corporate-style management of public schools. No longer are New Yorkers compelled to listen to false and exaggerated claims about charter schools. Finally, after years of massaged data and blatantly false claims about charter schools, there is hope for an honest approach. Bill de Blasio, the progressive Democratic candidate, for mayor has committed to creating an equitable system for all children. His opponent has gone on the attack and wants to double-down on the failed education policies of Mike Bloomberg. Let’s take an honest look at charter school performance in New York City.

Do charter schools in New York City allow parents choice? At some charter schools 24%-68% of the students are lost from each cohort. Up to 7 out of 10 parents at these charter schools do not see their child complete schooling at the charter school they chose. Other “high performing” charter schools suspend 25%-40% of their students a year in order to see gains in test scores. This means that each year up to 2 in 5 parents at these charter schools have their choice forcibly taken away by the very charter school they chose to send their child to. In one particularly egregious case a charter school pushed out 1/3 of its student body in order to improve test scores. If you are the parent of an English Language Learner or of a student with special needs you won’t have much choice since charter schools tend to accept very few of those students. And if they do accept your child it seems that at least some charter school chains will attrite English Language Learners and students with special needs at very high rates. So do charter schools in New York City allow parents choice? Not at all.

Are charter schools in New York City accountable? In one story the New York City Department of Education under Mike Bloomberg refused to share data on special education services in charter schools. In another story a charter school chain sued New York State to prevent an audit of how it used public money. New York State backed down. Joel Klein, former Chancellor in New York City falsely claimed that charter schools “closed the longstanding achievement gap.” He made this claim even though the data showed it to be an outright lie. In 2007, when the big push to open up even more charter schools began the data showed that charter high schools had an on-time graduation rate less than half that of public schools. Even so more charter schools were opened. As many sources have pointed out little of the data that can be found for public view on the official web pages of public schools can be found on the official web pages of charter schools. The lack of transparency about schools that receive so much public money is astounding. So are charter schools in New York City accountable? Definitely not.

Do charter schools in New York City have better scores? In 2009 a report showed that students in charter schools made less progress than those in public schools. In 2010 the data showed that public schools were 24% more likely to get As or Bs on the New York City school report cards than charter schools. In 2011 yet another analysis showed that charter schools are more likely to get Ds or Fs on the progress section of the New York City school report cards than public schools. In fact, charter schools were twice as likely to get Fs than public schools. Charter high schools had half the college readiness rate of public high schools. This year charter schools saw bigger drops in performance on the Common Core exams than public schools. Additionally charter schools performed worse on average than public schools in English and the same as public schools in math. This is all the more concerning given the creaming, the extremely high suspension and alarming attrition rates. Despite these competitive “advantages” charter schools overall do worse than public schools. So do charter schools have better scores? The data says no.

Who pays for charter schools in New York City and how much? As a whole charter schools in public buildings receive almost $650 more per student in public money than public schools. When the fact that charter schools have fewer high needs student is accounted for charter schools in public buildings receive $2,200 more per student in public money than public schools. Many charter schools spend a lot more money per student than public schools. KIPP spends over $3,000 more per student. Other well-known charter chains spend $4,300 more per student than public schools. Some of these sums come from hedge fund investors and corporate managers who believe that money should determine how schools run rather than the input of parents and educators. They will donate to charter schools up until they destroy public schools. Then the donations to charter schools will stop. What is the evidence for this? Because if they really cared about providing all children with opportunity they would support Bill de Blasio’s plan to ensure that every child in New York City has access to a quality pre-K program. As James Heckman, a Nobel prize winner in economics, shows in his new book Giving Kids a Fair Chance early intervention has the greatest social and economic impact. Instead, the head of a business leaders’ group said “it shows lack of sensitivity to the city’s biggest revenue providers.”

Clearly the facts support Bill de Blasio. Let’s put Bloomberg’s divisive policies behind us and return to a focus on equity and opportunity in all of our schools and for all students in New York City.

Additional Reading: “English language learners are consistently underrepresented in charter school populations across 3 academic years.” Harlem Children’s Zone charter schools is middle of the pack in terms of student test score outcomes. an examination of charter school data. notes significant flaws in a non-peer-reviewed report claiming slightly better results for charter schools in New York City.