Charters & Choice

Before the real estate bubble burst, there was an emerging literature on the link between government regulation of housing and home prices. Heightened zoning restrictions, the conclusions went, drove up the cost of housing. Now the Brookings Institution has added something new to consider: Zoning regulations are segregating cities by income and race and leaving quality schools available to mostly higher income families.

Housing costs are 2.4 times greater near a better performing school.

After surveying 100 metropolitan areas, Brookings analyst Jonathan Rothwell found that housing costs are 2.4 times greater near a better performing school, as judged by state test scores, than near a lower performing school. Zoning, Rothwell told Education Week, “is an underlying problem.”  Exclusionary zoning has priced lower income families out of high-flying schools in higher-flying neighborhoods where population density is low by government design and where fewer people own larger houses and more acres of land.

By loosening or even eliminating restrictive zoning, cities may see housing cost gaps narrow by as much as 63 percentage points and see school achievement gaps narrow as a result, Rothwell writes.

Naturally, Rothwell has an affinity for school choice, including district choice plans, charter schools,...

Streeeeetching the school dollar

Mike and Adam talk space shuttles, vouchers, and how districts can make the most of tight budgets on this week’s podcast, while Amber explains what special ed looks like in the Bay State.

Amber's Research Minute

Review of Special Education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts - Download the PDF

Today we continue our analysis of the impact of Governor Kasich’s mid-biennium education policy proposals with a look at how it would change the state’s charter school academic death penalty.  (See our previous analyses of how schools would fare under the new A to F rating system and how that rating system could impact eligibility for the EdChoice Scholarship Program.)

Ohio has had an automatic charter school closure law on the books since late 2006. Currently the law states that a charter school (not including drop-out recovery schools or schools primarily serving students with disabilities) must shut its doors if it meets one of the following criteria:

  • The school doesn’t offer a grade lever higher than three and has been declared to be in state of academic emergency for three of the four most recent years;
  • The schools offers any of grade levels four to eight but does not offer a grade level higher than nine and has been in a state of academic emergency for two of the three most recent years and in at least two of the threeost recent years, the school showed less than one standard year of academic growth in either reading
  • ...

It’s hard to identify the political motivations that drove Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto an expansion of the state’s publicly funded savings accounts to help more disadvantaged students pay for private education. But we do have her explanation, one that pretends the expansion of private school choice would “artificially manipulate” the market to the disadvantage of public schools.

This fear of an “unlevel playing field” is a milder variant on the assertion that school vouchers would “virtually abolish public education,” as the head of the Lousiana teachers union told the Wall Street Journal for a story today. But it’s all the more surprising coming from a Republican governor who has supported school choice for the Grand Canyon State in the past. Does Brewer really agree with voucher opponents who insisted that last year’s adoption of education savings accounts for special education students was really just the camel’s nose in the tent, heralding doom for public education? Her veto suggests this much.

That few Arizona reporters would challenge Brewer’s explanation or express shock that she was the one making it shows how ingrained this narrative has become since the 1970s. At that time, United States senators including...

In our recent documentary on the schools in Sciotoville, OH, you hear a big-dollar word used over and over: facilities. The Tartans of Sciotoville go to class in a building that dates from around 1914. The community would love a new facility—but bricks and mortar don't come cheap. Ohio community schools (that is, charters) get no state and local funds for facilities, meaning they have to scrimp and save out of operating funds or find private dollars to build.

Down the road from Sciotoville Elementary Academy, which is housed in modulars and packed with students, is a brand-new traditional district school built with public funds and under-enrolled. (Many of the kids it was built to serve go to SEA!) Charters across the country suffer from the same disparities.

Sciotoville school
Maintaining or replacing aging school facilities presents a challenge to many rural communities
 Photo by Joe Portnoy.

It's not only charter school pupils who sit in old, dilapidated buildings, though. Some traditional schools have benefited from a boom in new construction, but...

The Education Gadfly Podstagram

Will Mitt take on ed? Is Jindal gutting public schools? The podcast has answers. Plus, Janie provides the inside scoop on state accountability and Amber analyzes school shoppers in Detroit.

Amber's Research Minute

Understanding School Shoppers in Detroit

Rumor has it that we will soon see an actual education plan from Mitt Romney, his team having been loath to wade into this debate during the primaries. I predict that it’ll include a strong push for vouchers, if only because this remains the clearest divide between the GOP view of education and the reform agenda of Arne Duncan and the Obama administration.

Most other distinctions are grayer today, involving degrees of difference about things like teacher evaluations, “common core” standards, and just how much discretion Washington should return to states.

Short of plain goofiness, vouchers are where bright lines get drawn.

Short of plain goofiness (as in “abolish the Department of Education”), vouchers are where bright lines get drawn. The conventional explanation is that Democrats don’t dare cross this threshold lest the teacher unions (already antsy about charters, merit pay, test-based accountability, etc.) forsake their traditional party—or simply sit on their hands come campaign season and election day, while Republicans tend to take the side of parents and don’t much care what the unions—or other parts of the education establishment—think or do.

It feels and acts like a political line—witness the political football known as the D.C....

When Louisiana lawmakers last week approved Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to award vouchers to low-income children, they also ordered state schools Superintendent John White to develop a system that holds participating schools accountable for the performance of their voucher students. Now it’s up to White and his Department of Education to figure out how this is going to work. May we make a suggestion? They might consider a sliding scale of accountability, with heightened accountability requirements for private schools that rely more on public revenue. Schools that see only a few voucher students out of a private-paying enrollment of hundreds should be treated more like private schools (those voucher students would still have to take the state test under the law Louisiana adopted), but schools that see upward of 90 percent of their revenues coming from public sources should be treated more like public schools, even if that means removing them from the program for poor performance. Such an approach balances the choice of the parent, the unique characteristics of a school, and the rights of the taxpayer.

Jindal bill tweaked to add accountability,” by Kevin McGill, Associated Press, April 7, 2012...

Over the past few years, Detroit has undergone a host of large-scale reforms in attempts to revitalize the city’s K-12 education system: Among the more promising, Motown has dramatically expanded choice options for students. Now, under the auspices of the Michigan Future Schools and others, Detroit is set to launch three dozen new choice schools over the next several years. This unique study by Patrick Wolf and Thomas Stewart examines the school-choice shopping behaviors of parents in the Motor City and offers recommendations that bear on the next generation of choice schools. Researchers conducted doorstep interviews of over 1,000 households representing roughly 1,700 school-age children to ascertain how many Detroit parents, particularly those of low income, exercise school choice. They found that 71 percent of Detroit families have shopped for alternative schools before—though with varying levels of engagement. At present, roughly 45 percent of Motown children are attending a non-neighborhood school (with 22 percent in charters, 15 percent in public schools outside Detroit Public Schools (DPS), and the rest in magnet and private schools). Parents rely mostly on other parents and friends when...

Fordham has served as an authorizer of charter schools in Ohio since mid-2005. Our schools have been mainly in Ohio’s urban core—including Dayton, Cincinnati, and Columbus—and the vast majority of their students have been poor and minority.

This year, we added two more schools to our sponsorship portfolio, both located in Scioto County near Ohio’s southern tip on the shores of the Ohio River, i.e., what most would term the Appalachian region of the Buckeye State. Families and children there face challenges as daunting as those in Ohio’s toughest urban neighborhoods. Scioto is one of the state’s poorest counties with an unemployment rate of 12.7 percent (the state average is 8.5 percent). It has also been ground zero for the state’s opiate epidemic: It has the third-highest overdose death rate of all eighty-eight counties in Ohio.

Together the Sciotoville Elementary School (Kindergarten through fourth grade) and Sciotoville Community School (fifth through twelfth grades) serve about 440 students. This represents about one in five children who attend a K-12 school in the local Portsmouth City School District (the home district for most Sciotoville students). The percentage of kids attending charters in that district matches the rate in Cincinnati.  

Sciotoville Community...