Editor’s note: On Tuesday, Caprice Young will be inducted into the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ Charter School Hall of Fame, which recognizes the movement’s pioneers and leaders whose contributions have made a sizeable, lasting, or innovative impact. Caprice Young has been a charter innovator for over two decades. The former founder and CEO of the California Charter School Association, as well as former board president of the Los Angeles Unified School Board, Caprice now leads the Magnolia Public Schools—a group of charter schools ranked among California’s very best. This is her interview, conducted by Fordham’s Jamie Davies O’Leary.

Jamie Davies O’Leary: You oversee the Magnolia Public Schools, a group of California charter schools that are STEAM-focused (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics). What is happening at Magnolia that you’re most proud of?

Caprice Young: Magnolia’s schools were started by a group of world-class graduate students in science programs at USC, CalTech, and UC Irvine dedicated to the vision of developing and graduating students who are scientific thinkers and civically responsible. Our academic program is rigorous, hands-on, and student driven. Over the last two years, we have added arts to our STEM-based curriculum because cultivating creativity and...

Lyall Swim

Editor’s note: This is the final article in a series that outlines some foundational principles for successful adoption of innovative education reforms.

When the founding fathers advocated for principles of federalism, they weren’t thinking that this philosophy of governance was going to be great for innovation. Rather, based on their writings, the push for the tenets of federalism was to create a system of checks and balances within the government that ensured that power was diffused and the threats of tyranny were minimized.

However, it turns out that federalism and the separation of powers isn’t just good governance policy. As implemented in the American experiment, federalism has become a tremendous way to create a culture of innovation for a broad range of policy areas—particularly for education.

One of the most important and visible findings from my doctoral research on innovation adoption was that the type of innovation dictates where an innovation is most likely to be successfully adopted. In many ways, this aspect of innovation follows the number one rule of real estate: location, location, location.

In education reform, our federalist government structure naturally creates four distinct locations, or levels—federal, state, district, and school—that can be matched...

In a recent Los Angeles Times editorial, Stand for Children’s Jonah Edelman and the American Federation of Teachers’ Randi Weingarten blasted the private-school choice programs that the Trump Administration has strongly promoted. They built their case, in part, on the notion that public schools are “open to all,” while stating that private schools are not. But can public schools claim the high ground on admissions? Is every public school district really open to all?

In the words of football analyst Lee Corso: “Not so fast.” Consider Fordham’s home state of Ohio where, like most states, boundary lines have long determined public-school assignments. For many families, their “zoned” schools are fine and were very likely a driving force during the home-buying process. Other parents, however, might prefer to send their child to another district. They may want access to a specialized academic program or to ensure their kids attend a school that is nearer to their home than the one assigned to them, even if it means crossing a district boundary.

To offer parents more interdistrict opportunities, Ohio legislators enacted one of the nation’s first open enrollment laws in 1989. This public-school-choice policy permits students to attend another district without...

Inequity in the City—the work of veteran authors of previous charter-school funding studies, including Inequity’s Next Frontier, Inequity Persists, and Inequity Expandsdiffers slightly from its predecessors because of its metropolitan focus. Its core finding is familiar, however: public charter schools face serious and persistent funding gaps compared to their district counterparts. (Will we ever get to read “Inequity Shrinks” or “Inequity Disappears”? One can dream. But some states such as Colorado are at least making progress.)

The analysts focused on 15 cities: Atlanta, Boston, Camden, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans, New York City, Oakland, San Antonio, Tulsa, and Washington, D.C. These locales were selected for their high concentration of charters or their “potential for growth.” Data come from fiscal year 2014.

They examined revenue differences in these places between the charter and district schools sectors, including all sources of funding—local, state, federal, and nonpublic. In eight of the cities, the authors conducted longitudinal analyses. They also tested to see whether differences in the enrollment rates of students with special learning needs (defined broadly to include students who are low-income, English language learners, or with disabilities) might explain funding differences.

There are...

If you had it to do it all over again, would you still pursue the same level of education? Would you attend the same college or university? The same area of study?

A new survey from the Strada Education Network and Gallup finds a majority of Americans who attended college say they received a quality education. But, given the chance, about half of us would change at least one of our Big Three decisions, most commonly the course of study: 36 percent of us would choose a different major if we could. I have college regrets too, mostly that I was too embarrassed to ask Sue Castrigno for a second date. There was also that Friday night at Buckland’s, which mercifully pre-dated cellphone cameras and the advent of social media. But I digress.

Strada’s mission is to “help students build a more purposeful pathway through college or other postsecondary education.” Thus it is unsurprising that the report speculates that our wish to have made different choices “may be a function of having made decisions without complete information,” such as future employment opportunities, earning potential, or the long-term effect of student debt. “In short,” the paper concludes, “education consumers’ regret about...

The year was 1969. Imagine the audacity and irony of an immigrant, one whose family had fled to America in 1923 to escape a totalitarian regime, now testifying to the U.S. Congress his concern that the American Dream was in a state of swift evanescence, especially for the nation’s youngest children:

Mr. Chairman, by profession, I am a behavioral scientist. My field of specialization is human development, in particular the processes through which the newborn infant is gradually transformed into an effective member of society...There is a growing body of scientific evidence that the process of making human beings human is breaking down in American society. The signs of this breakdown are seen in the growing rates of alienation, apathy, rebellion, delinquency, and violence we have observed in youth in this nation in recent decades. And the indications from the evidence are that these trends will be continuing at an increasing rate. The causes of this breakdown are, of course, manifold, but they all converge in their disruptive impact on the one institution that bears primary responsibility for socialization in our society—the American family.

Russian-born Urie Bronfenbrenner was the intellectual giant who shaped much of modern...

At a House budget hearing two weeks ago, Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) pushed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to comment on a Christian school’s policy toward LGBT students and families. As described by the Boston Globe:

Clark waited patiently for her turn to question DeVos in the packed hearing room, and when the opportunity came, she asked about the private Lighthouse Christian Academy in Bloomington, Ind.

The school, Clark said, receives more than $665,000 in state vouchers, while noting in its handbook that it may deny admission to students from families where homosexual or “alternate gender identity” is practiced.

Leaning into her microphone and shaking her fist, Clark asked: If Indiana seeks federal funding as part of the president’s proposed voucher program, “will you stand up that this school be open to all students?”

DeVos tried to pivot, and then, after repeated questions from Clark, said that the decision would be left up to states, leading papers nationwide to run headlines such as “Betsy DeVos Refuses to Rule Out Giving Funds to Schools That Discriminate.”

[RELATED CONTENT: “Civil rights and private schools: An explainer,” by Michael J. Petrilli.]

We should expect to hear...

With President Trump and Secretary DeVos advocating for a federal school voucher initiative, private school choice is having its moment in the spotlight. One question that has been raised by critics, including on Capitol Hill, is whether private schools would be required to follow civil rights laws if they became recipients of federal funds.

I thought it might be helpful to understand the current obligations of private schools when it comes to civil rights, and how that varies (if at all) for schools participating in state voucher programs. Since the vast majority of private schools are religious, it’s also important to understand what rules are in place to protect their “free exercise of religion” under the First Amendment. I couldn’t find a good primer on this online, so I decided to take a crack at one.

Mainly at issue is whether private schools may choose not to enroll students or hire teachers on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or disability status. Let’s take a look.


Thanks to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, plus a number of Supreme Court cases decided since then, no private school can discriminate on the basis of race,...

The education reform movement is a big tent, which is particularly true when it comes to the idea of holding schools accountable for results. And, I would argue, the organizations that represent the extreme poles of that tent are the Thomas B. Fordham Institute on the right, and the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights on the left.

Within the tent are people and organizations who share important common views. One is that our massive, fragmented, highly bureaucratic education system is unlikely to make all of the tough decisions necessary to improve achievement without some pressure from the outside. Another is that the needs of disadvantaged kids are unlikely to be prioritized without a push, because their parents often lack political power in our school systems. A third is that properly designed testing and accountability systems can encourage positive behaviors in schools and school systems—positives that outweigh the legitimate negatives that come from testing.

But as is the case with any movement, those of us in this big tent disagree about a lot as well. One issue is whether it’s unwise, or morally essential, to set ambitious, perhaps utopian, goals for our education system. The following exchange, between the Leadership Conference’s...

By Corey A. DeAngelis

The Colorado Legislature recently passed a bill that would allow charter schools access to the same local funding that traditional public schools in the state have long enjoyed. This bipartisan measure comes on the heels of a new national study by the University of Arkansas that found charters across the country receiving, on average, $5,721 less than nearby district schools in per-pupil funding.

The primary revenue culprit for this disparity? Local funding.

In doing this analysis, my colleagues and I examined funding for students in charters and district schools in fifteen metropolitan areas during the 2013–14 school year. As shown in Figure 1 (drawn from the report), in all but one of those locations, we found that children enrolled in public charter schools receive substantially less funding than those in district-operated schools. Across the country, that averages out to a shortfall of about 29 percent. 

Source: Wolf, Maloney, May, and DeAngelis (2017). “Charter School Funding: Inequity in the City.” School Choice Demonstration Project, Department of Education Reform, University of Arkansas.

Critics of such analyses sometimes claim that funding disparities are due to differences in types of students, with...