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February 27, 2007

Judy L. Doesschate
380 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, New York   12208

November 19, 2006

Charter School Facts:

  • 2006 State test scores do not support claims that charter schools are increasing academic achievement or providing a high quality education:

    • Brighter Choice state score results are artificially inflated by students who do not take the tests.

In 2004-2005 Brighter Choice School for Girls had 26 third graders.  10 of those students “disappeared” before the 4th grade state assessments were given in the Spring of 2006 – at least some by being held back and others being returned to district schools.  The pass rate on the 4th grade ELA exam for the 16 students who took the test was 56.3%.   Assuming the 10 students who did not take the test would not have passed the 4th grade ELA exam, the pass rate for the 4th grade Brighter Choice girls would have been 35% - which only exceeds the pass rate for two districts schools – both with a high number of special education students. 

Similarly, four students at Brighter Choice for Boys disappeared between 3rd grade and the taking of the 4th grade ELA exam – putting the adjusted pass rate near the district mean.  Meanwhile, their 3rd grade ELA pass rate barely exceeded two district schools – although several students were repeating the grade. 

    • The percentage of students in the 3 middle school charter schools passing the ELA exam is below the district average.  Only KIPP exceeded the district average – and then only  by 5%.
    • New Covenant scores remain far below district schools.  The continued operation of this school is a disservice to the community as well as to the students enrolled in that school 

The ELA pass rate for New Covenant 3rd graders in 2006 was 12.7% lower than any other school in the district (and 27% below the district average)

The 2006 ELA pass rate for New Covenant 4th and 5th graders combined was 14% below any other school in the district.

In 2005, the 4th grade ELA pass rate for New Covenant was below all but one district school – while having no special education 4th grade students.  Comparing just general education students – it’s pass rate was 4% below any other school in the district. 

2.  Charter Schools do not educate Albany students for less than district schools. 

Charter School proponents have repeatedly claimed that “it only costs charter schools in Albany $11,000 to educate children” whereas it “costs $18,000 or $19,000 to educate children in district schools.”   Cost reports on file with SED show that the per pupil expenditures for KIPP, Achievement Academy and Albany Preparatory Charter schools for the 2005-2006 school year were $17,984, $18,550 and $30,938 respectively.  Brighter Choice cost reports for the last 4 years show a range of $12,801 to $15,234 per pupil expenditures.  However, the 990s’ filed with the IRS show the combined expenses for Brighter Choice for Boys and Girls for 2003-04 were $2,764,026; which amounts to $19,194 per student for the 144 students in attendance that year.  In 2002-03, total expenses were $2,279,089; which amounts to $29,251 per student for the 88 students enrolled that year.  None of these figures include additional expenses incurred by the district for transportation, nursing, social worker and other services (and in most cases special education services) provided to charter school students.  They also do not include the extra expense incurred by the district as some charter schools bill the district twice for a student to complete a single grade when they are held back.

Charter school proponents apparently arrive at the cost of educating students in Albany city schools by taking the entire district budget and dividing it by the number of students enrolled only in district schools – without first subtracting the costs for transportation, special education services, nursing services, social workers, books etc. for all students in private, parochial and charter schools – as well as mandated payments to charter schools.  The most recent issued SED report card for Albany public schools, reports the “District-wide Total Expenditure per pupil” as being $14,650 – which include the higher costs associated with secondary level education students.  While this figure necessarily relates back to an earlier year, it highlights the extent to which the costs used by charter school proponents misrepresent both charter school costs and district school costs in their attempts to promote charter schools. 


  •  Charter Schools are unreliable and pose a planning nightmare for the Albany district. 

At least 3 different charter schools have postponed their opening by a full year.  Two others have officially reduced their approved enrollment. As a result, the current approved Albany charter school enrollment has been reduced by 448 students as compared with what the district was told to expect less than a year ago – and Albany students make up less than 65% of the total enrollment charter schools were supposed to have this year.   Consequently, the district has almost 700 more students enrolled in district schools this year than it would if the charter schools were enrolled to capacity as originally proposed  - which amounts to  the equivalent enrollment of two elementary schools.   With New Covenant constantly on the brink of closure and other enrollment uncertainties, the district is constantly required to deal with potential annual enrollment fluctuations of 500-1500 students until the approved enrollment for Albany charter schools is reduced to a manageable, reliable number that any district could sustain.  The inherent unreliability of charter schools create problems not only for the district’s budgeting process, but also in planning to update and renovate every one of its schools to be the kind of school that any parent would want to send their child to.


Dear Mr. Higgins:

Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you yesterday at the Neighborhood Works Conference.  I appreciated hearing your and Dr. Sullivan’s comments regarding the need to highlight and promote the positive things going on in our schools and the need to increase business and community involvement in our schools and in our children’s lives.  I wholeheartedly share your sentiments and look forward to working with you and others in accomplishing those goals. 

As I noted yesterday, I have two concerns about the comments made during the committee’s presentation.  One is with regard to Dr. Sullivan’s reference to “the excellent results of some charter schools” that suggests the committee may be relying on Brighter Choice’s extensive multi-million dollar promotional campaign, rather than the data, when evaluating charter schools in Albany.  As a result, I am attaching some information which directly addresses some of the claims made by charter school proponents with regard to performance, costs and accountability. 

My second concern is the inference made that the committee wants to avoid making any recommendations with regard to charter schools despite the very significant problems the oversaturation of charter schools creates for the revitalization of Albany.  This stands in stark contrast to some of the presentations made by other committees which emphasized the need for community input and involvement in any revitalization plans.  The reality is that aside from New Covenant, charter schools in Albany have been imposed upon our city without community input or involvement.  In fact, the vast majority of Albany residents oppose their continued and growing presence in our city and are appalled that they are required to support these schools without any local government official or residents having a say in their existence, operation or the amount of tax money paid.  This dynamic, which is unique to Albany, can’t help but undermine any efforts at revitalizing our city. 

Albany is like any other community.  Its taxpayers and residents want a say in the running of their local government institutions and the services they pay for with their tax dollars.  They want a quality school system that is responsive to its citizens and enhances the overall quality of life in a neighborhood – and the city as a whole.  That is part of the reason the residents of Albany overwhelmingly passed a $185 million bond issue to rebuild or renovate every one of its elementary and middle schools.  They have spoken time and again – they do not want what the charter school proponents are delivering:  substandard school buildings, a bare bones academic program, questionable results, unreliable enrollment figures, and an unrelenting negative misinformation campaign that not only undermines confidence in our local schools – but also in our community as a desirable place to live.  The lack of support is not only evident from the commentary in  the community and the media, but also from the fact Albany charter schools are only about 2/3rds enrolled with Albany students despite an incessant media campaign.  Yet, charter school proponents have proposed opening even more charter schools in Albany – increasing the potential of the city school district will go from contingency budget to contingency budget with high tax increases because of the dramatically increasing charter school payments and taxpayer resistance to paying for such schools. 

As a resident of Albany who is constantly out and about in our community listening to the city’s residents, I believe there is no single issue that is more important to the potential revitalization of our city.  When I campaigned for school board, it was the question residents asked me about most often – they wanted assurances that I did not support charter schools.  If taxpayers throughout the city do not feel as though they have any control over their taxes and where the money goes, the exodus from our city will increase exponentially.  This is why the city, county and district elected officials have all taken a strong stand against the continued proliferation of charter schools in Albany.  I hope as the education committee continues its deliberations, it will lend its support to the efforts of local elected officials to get legislative relief by including specific recommendations regarding restricting the growth of charter schools in Albany, and even decreasing their enrollment, in its report.

Again, I thank you for your time and consideration of these important issues and look forward to working with you in the future.


                                                            Judy L. Doesschate


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