New York Cuts Charter School Funding

A budget bill passed by the New York Assembly in Albany will cut funding for charter schools to 2009-10 levels if they’re located in a district where at least 10% of students are charter school enrollees.

The news comes as a bitter blow to charter school leaders who had tightened their belts in preparation for an expected funding freeze. Now they say that the funding cuts, 9.5% in Lackawanna and 13% in Buffalo, will devastate their education programs, with ‘enrichment programs’ such as art, music and Spanish most likely to be cut.

“We’re going to have to relook at all the support mechanisms we have for these kids, and the enrichments we have would have to be cut back,” said James Neimeier, chairman of the board at South Buffalo Charter.
“It’s going to significantly hurt the progress that we’ve made with these kids. They get a lot of individual attention.”

About 17% of students in Buffalo attend charter schools across more than a dozen institutions, but the funding they receive from the home districts of their students is set to drop from $12,005 per student to $10,429. Charter school leaders are warning that the cuts would translate to ‘bare-bones instruction’. The cut to charter school funding is an effective increase in the budget for district schools and will work out to about an $11 million budget increase for Buffalo Public Schools. The move will be considered a victory for opponents of charter schools who feared that they would erode state education entirely. It will discourage new charter schools from forming in areas where charter school take-up is already approaching 10%, so creating an effective cap to charter schools while funding remains linked.

Funding for charter schools needs to be separated from the funding for district schools — a point that charter leaders as well as district leaders generally agree upon