NYC Mayoral Debate, Charter School Debate: Should Charter Schools Go Rent Free?
NYC mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio has said the city’s 180 charter schools (many of which have millions of dollars in discretionary resources) should be charged rent for their buildings or for the space they occupy in public school buildings. (De Blasio also thinks they shouldn’t share space with the public schools, but that’s a different argument.) The Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota says charter schools shouldn’t pay rent because “they are public schools, and we don’t charge our public schools rent.” Money makes the debate about whether they’re really subsidized private schools or public institutions likely to persist. So how much money are we talking about? A recent lawsuit filed by parents to make co-located charter schools pay rent estimated that the annual “free ride cost” is more than $96 million.
Across the nation, more than a third (38.9%) of charter schools pay market rate rent on their facility. One-third (32.8%) share with facilities with another entity (public school, church, non-profit organization). Nearly one-third of charter schools (31.5%) pay an annual fee between $1-$100,000 for their facility. Charter schools spend an average of 13 percent of their operating budget on facilities. But the number one reason why a charter school fails isn’t financial–it’s poor academic performance. Nationwide, a school will be recommended for closure if it cannot reach its academic goals within its first four years.