Charter Schools' Impacts on Rural School Districts

Federal and state policies have promoted the rapid growth of charter schools for over a decade.  With Act 22 in 1997, Pennsylvania created the legal context for establishing charter schools within the Commonwealth. Data from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools show that by the 2010-11 academic year, at nearly 91,000 students, Pennsylvania had the 7th largest charter school enrollment nationwide. In 2010-11, charter schools accounted for 4.6% of all public schools within Pennsylvania. As is the case nationally, charter schools in Pennsylvania are disproportionately located in urban areas with 56% of charter schools in central cities. Yet an additional 15% of charter schools in PA are also in rural areas.

The rapid growth in charter school enrollments raises important questions about how these trends occur across school districts in different areas, how the fiscal impacts of charter school enrollment may differentially affect rural and urban districts, and thus how public policy may best respond to these differences, to the extent that they exist.

Taking these issues into account, CREC has received funding from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania to conduct research including:

  1. A 5-year analysis of enrollment trends in charter schools (including cyber charter schools) in rural and urban Pennsylvania;
  2. A 5-year analysis of the financial impact of charter schools (including cyber charter schools) on school district budgets in rural and urban Pennsylvania.

This effort is assisted by College of Education faculty members and CREC Associates, Ed Fuller, Erica Frankenberg, as well as by Educational Leadership faculty, William Hartman, Steve Kotok (University of Texas at El Paso) and Educational Leadership Ph.D. graduate student Bryan Mann.

Selected Publications by CREC Affiliates and Associates from this and other Charter Schools-Related Work:

Fuller, E.J. (2014). Cream Skimming in Texas: A Comparison of the Characteristics of Students Entering High-Profile Charter Schools in the Same Zip Code. Texas Education Review, 2(1).

Green, III, P. C., Frankenberg, E., Nelson, S., & Rowland, J. (2012). Charter schools, students of color, and the state action doctrine: Are the rights of students of color sufficiently protected? Washington & Lee Journal of Civil Rights & Social Justice.

Schafft, K.A., Frankenberg, E., Fuller, E., Hartman, W., Kotok, S., & Mann, B. (2014). Assessing the Enrollment Trends and Financial Impacts of Charter Schools on Rural and Non-Rural School Districts in Pennsylvania. Harrisburg, PA: Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

Kotok, S. Frankenberg, E. Schafft, K., Mann, B., & Fuller, E. (forthcoming 2016). School choice, racial segregation, and poverty concentration: Evidence from Pennsylvania Charter School Transfers.  Educational Policy.