Publication Date: September 10, 2021
Access issues are pivotal to almost all charter school tensions and debates. How well are these schools performing? Are they segregating and stratifying? Are they public and democratic? Are they fairly funded? Can apparent successes be scaled up? Answers to all these core questions hinge on how access to charter schools is shaped. This book describes the incentives and pressures on charter schools to restrict access and examines how charters navigate those pressures, explaining access-restricting practices in relation to the ecosystem within which charter schools are created. It also explains how charters have sometimes responded by resisting the pressures and sometimes by surrendering to them. The text presents analyses of 13 different types of practices around access, each of which shapes the school’s enrollment. The authors conclude by offering recommendations for how states and authorizers can address access-related inequities that arise in the charter sector. School’s Choice provides timely information on critical academic and policy issues that will come into play as charter school policy continues to evolve.
Wagma Mommandi, a former public-school teacher, is a PhD candidate in education policy at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. Kevin Welner is a professor and the director of the National Education Policy Center, which is housed at the CU Boulder School of Education.
“Mommandi and Welner deepen our understanding of familiar but rarely challenged contradictions that charter schools impose on our public education system. Vivid and well-researched accounts of practices limiting the neediest children’s access to charters expose far more than ‘bad actors’ (i.e., rule violators). Disparities in access, instead, are the logical consequence of state charter school policies. The authors brilliantly show these policy-sanctioned limits are solidly grounded in larger cultural norms and politics of market incentives, opportunity hoarding, and effectively maintaining inequality—the powerful forces that undermine the very democracy and equity that public schools struggle to make real.”
—Jeannie Oakes, Presidential Professor Emeritus, University of California, Los Angeles
“This book breaks new ground by focusing specifically on access to inform the public and the field. It’s a must-read, an accessibly written primer of charter school information. It is an ideal volume not only for academics and policymakers, but also for parents and communities to scrutinize the charter school ethos of equity and access.”
—Julian Vasquez Heilig, dean and professor, University of Kentucky
“The charter school experiment created thousands of new schools by giving public money to private groups. A spigot of billions has attracted geniuses and scoundrels but produced basically mediocre schools. They have become a political force and engage in many strategies to avoid supervision and control their enrollments through tactics that are skillfully dissected in this careful analysis. Like many private businesses, charter schools try to shape and manipulate their images and markets in a very complex pattern. This book untangles that pattern. An invaluable part describes efforts for diversity in this very segregated sector, equity policies, and accountability approaches that could be the key to getting a better return on a large and disappointing investment.”
—Gary Orfield, Distinguished Research Professor, University of California, Los Angeles