French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish


Dr. Elaine Ruiz Lopez

The High Costs of a Public Charter School Education: A Commentary

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

For the past three months, the politics and value of charter schools have been steadily debated in the media and numerous public arenas. The election of a new administration has opened the door for dialogue as well as a healthy dose of controversy surrounding the question of quality public education and much needed reforms, the right to school choice, and the promise of greater educational opportunities for students and the community. For over a decade charter school leaders, parents, teachers, community leaders and elected officials have engaged in singular as well as statewide discussions about the political rationale for financially supporting mission driven, performance and outcome based education run by charter organizations with a 501 C-3. With the birth of a new administration in New York City and the election of a new Mayor, these deep conversations and political debates are in full throttle and have launched a new wave of public social awareness of school choice and options for parents and students.

Among the points of the debates that appear to have come to a close, at least for now, are plans to finalize a state budget with an equitable increase in funding for charter schools and for co-location of charter schools without charging rent in public school space. In a statement made by James Merriman, CEO for the NYC Charter Center, charter school funding has been frozen at $13, 527.00 for three years. The compromise that was reached in Albany on March 29, 2014 calls for a gradual increase of funding for our public charter school students over a period of 4 years. However, the Charter school funding levels will stay flat—at their 2010-2011 levels until the end of the 2016-2017 school year.

The state will provide all charter schools with per-pupil funding increases amounting to $500 over the same period. There is also a promise of providing some facilities funding for charter schools in private space.

Regrettably, what appears to have become lost in the conversation is the diversity that exists among the charter schools and the organizations that operate them, that are serving students and communities throughout New York City, yielding greater performance outcomes with less funding and resources. Also lost in translation, are what the actual costs per pupil are in local charter schools. In spite of the inequity in funding, the process of implementing a vision for a well structured academically rigorous curriculum and high academic and behavioral expectations remains constant at most charter schools. The results across the board show that charter school students are outperforming their peers in the districts in which their schools are located.

The Latino Charter Leaders Roundtable (LCLR) explains that the diversity in models for charter schools range from those that are run by Charter Management Organizations (CMOs), Community Based Organization/Community Based Agencies (CBAs), Community Grown Charter Schools (CGOs), co-located and those independently run in private facilities; which usually means renovated commercial spaces for exorbitant leases at market rate per square foot. In spite of the diversity within the charter schools the common denominator for all charter school leaders and founders are the students and communities who are being served; primarily children who are mostly from public schools, the economically disadvantaged, those from under-served neighborhoods and parents who are hard-working and determined to provide their child with a unique opportunity to enroll their children in schools with a focused mission, clear goals and achievable outcomes.

A remarkable but not surprising fact is that charter schools continue to do much more with less and are meeting their goals in educating students well. So then what exactly are the high costs of a public charter school education? Let’s take our experience at our charter high school for a moment as a specific example. As a charter school with limited resources, International Leadership Charter High School (ILCHS) is characterized as a CGO that does not benefit from Hedge-fund money or large corporate contributions. Our annual expenditure per pupil for previous years’ audit was approximately $18,000.00. In spite of not receiving our fair share and equity in funding that our students deserve, we have consistently invested an average of $5000.00 more to educate each of our scholars. We are a high performing charter school, in fact one of the highest performing charter schools in the Bronx as our numbers clearly demonstrate at #6 out of 500 NYC high schools with a 96.2% Graduation Rate and currently in the top 1 percentile.

We have been able to accomplish much without resources such as a much needed library, a real cafeteria and physical education space. Our charter school also pays $64,000.00 in monthly rent and utilities, (the costs of four sets of 25 text books] for a commercial space that we renovated to accommodate 300 students. Based on the proposed state budget, our charter school would not be eligible for facilities funding unless we were expanding upwards or downwards to more grades.

Like most charter school leaders, founders and boards, what we lack in dollars, we will continue to make up for with drive and passion that is fueled by a desire and belief that our communities deserve a world class education in the Bronx and beyond. In conclusion, school choice is a good thing and charter school leaders are very special individuals whom are invested in the Dreams of others and committed to the transformative power of educating students and communities, serving and developing one scholar at a time. The value of doing so cannot be quantified.

Read more on the Latino Charter Leader Roundtable and Why we exist
The Latino Charter Leader Roundtable Statement of affirmation
Interview with LCLR members on Pura Politica
see more LCLR members on Pura Politica


At ILCHS, we seek to prepare every student to become a leader in the global world, and we are truly proud of our success! To build on and maintain this success, however, we need your support. Please consider supporting ILCHS today!

As ILCHS is a qualified 501(c)(3) organization, your contribution will be fully tax deductible.

Please visit our donations page to make a safe and secure online contribution.


Posted: April 1, 2014



If you are interested in touring our school, please check out our virtual tour and contact our admissions office. This video will show our COVID-19 Safety Protocols we have implemented.