Do Charter Schools Threaten Public Education? Emerging Evidence from Fifteen Years of a Quasi-Market for Schooling
43 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2006 Last revised: 26 Oct 2010
Date Written: October 26, 2010
Supporters of public education have long feared that charter schools will threaten the public system, both by 1) creaming off the most advantaged students and 2) undermining political support for the public system.
These fears have not been borne out. Blacks are disproportionately in charters, whites are disproportionately in traditional public schools, and Hispanics are fairly evenly distributed between the two. Looking at class measures, poor students are distributed fairly equally between the two types of schools. And turning to other measures of privilege, the evidence does not point strongly in either direction.
My conclusions are not without qualification. The article identifies some domains in which cream-skimming might develop and others where more research is needed. Moreover, the evidence does not support the claims of some charter school advocates that charter schools serve an especially disadvantaged population of students.
Regarding the question of public funding, privatization in the education context may have the effect of creating an additional constituency for increased overall education funding. Charter school advocates have moved away from claims that charters will cut costs and instead now focus on securing additional public funding. I argue that the structure of education funding means that charter school efforts to obtain greater public support will likely depend on increasing per pupil spending in all public schools.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation