News Story

Charter Schools Serve More Low-Income Students Than Conventional Districts

Despite claims, wealthy families are not benefiting more than poor families because of school choice

In his newspaper blog, Battle Creek Enquirer reporter Justin Hinkley stated that because school choice doesn't provide transportation, low-income families often are unable to access choice while wealthier families take advantage and leave their home districts. 

"That's turned some schools into ghettos of poverty," Hinkley wrote.

However, a 2013 study on Michigan charter public schools done by Stanford University, and a recently released study by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy proves Hinkley's claim is wrong.

The Stanford University study found that charter public schools had significantly more "economically disadvantaged" students than traditional public schools.

Dev Davis, research manager at CREDO at Stanford University, said they found that 70 percent of the charter students were economically disadvantaged, meaning they were eligible for free or reduced price meals. She said 55 percent of the traditional public school students were economically disadvantaged.

Also, the Stanford study found that black and Hispanic students did "significantly" better in reading and math when in charter schools than their peers in conventional public schools.

Audrey Spalding, education policy director at the Mackinac Center and author of the study, "The Public School Market in Michigan: An Analysis of Schools of Choice," found that Michigan students were moving to districts with a lower proportion of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch. The state's "schools of choice" program is making districts more economically diverse, not less, she said.  

Hinkley, who did not respond to a request for comment, is not the first to claim that choice benefits more affluent students.

Seventy-one Michigan public school superintendents signed a letter in December 2012 that claimed charter schools were serving middle-class students even though data from the Michigan Department of Education doesn't back that claim.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.