Understanding School Choice and Its Effects

In what some observers fear is a new trend in public school funding, a county outside Raleigh North Carolina just approved a charter school to suit the needs of a gated community developer.

Choice: for Real Estate and Re-Segregation

When I first read about the Anderson Creek Club Charter School, operating just outside a gated community, I thought perhaps it was something from the Onion or another kind of joke. A blogger known as EduShyster mentioned the new school in an article entitled, “The White Choice.” He writes: “…a growing number of choosy choosers are choosing a particular choice for their choosy children: the white choice.” And Anderson Creek Club is one of his examples of how charters serve re-segregation n many parts of the country.

I followed up and discovered that Hartnett County, North Carolina did, indeed, just approve a new charter school to serve the needs of a real estate developer. An earlier proposal would have established the charter school inside the gated community, but it moved slightly to gain approval. (Anderson Creek Club proposal)

As they were being brought into the public system in the mid-1990s, the idea was that [charter schools] would be laboratories, experimenting with curricula and teaching methods in ways that perhaps could help conventional schools. Unfortunately, charters now are seen by too many as private schools that get public money.

They’re not. But more are starting to look that way even if they’re not yet behind private gates.
Charlotte Observer

Choice: for Equity?

Julianne Hing also wrote about National School Choice Week – happening as we speak – in a ColorLines piece:

Public school districts are the only institutions with the federal mandate, the capacity and very often the commitment to serve every single student—not just those whose parents have the social and economic capital to pull their kids out of the hardest-hit public schools.

And yet, she notes, school choice policies are major factors in mass school closures and budget crises around the country.

“So maybe,” she concludes, “the question isn’t are you or are you not celebrating this week. Maybe it’s better to ask: is this the party you want to be at?”

Choice: for Fiscal Ruin

A disturbing piece written in honor of National School Choice Week, highlights the fiscal consequences of school choice. One news item highlighted is Indiana’s voucher program, sold as a way for poorer students to escape failing public school systems:

But the rules keep being adjusted and the number of children who previously attended a public school continues to drop. “Indiana will pay an estimated $81 million in private school tuition this year, up from $15.5 million in 2011-12.”
Jan Resseger

Another key point is the investment outlook for school systems with strong voucher and charter school programs. Here’s what Moody’s wrote when their report – “Charter Schools Pose Growing Risks for Urban Public Schools” – appeared this past fall:

A third risk factor for a school district is being in a state with a statutory framework promoting a high degree of educational choice and has a relatively liberal approval process for new charters and few limits on their growth, as well as generous funding.

For example in Michigan, the statutory framework emphasizes educational choice, and there are multiple charter authorizers to help promote charter school growth. In Michigan, Detroit Public Schools (B2 negative), Clintondale Community Schools (Ba3 negative), Mount Clemens Community School District (Ba3 negative) and Ypsilanti School District (Ba3) have all experienced significant fiscal strain related to charter enrollment growth, which has also been a contributing factor to their speculative grade status.

A final risk factor is when a school district is not integrated into a healthier local government, as such integration can lead to greater diversity in revenues and more flexibility in balance sheets, positioning the district to better handle operating and financial change.
Moody’s overview


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