Competition versus Equity: The Impact of Charter Schools on Segregation in Michigan Public Schools

Karen E. Ross, University of Michigan

Abstract: When President Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law on January 8, 2002, an already highly charged debate over school choice got an extra boost. While opponents argue that choice will lead to increased segregation, it is possible that increased choice may lead to greater integration by easing the historically tight link between residence and school attendance. This study aims to determine whether school choice, in the form of charter schools, is leading to greater segregation in Michigan public schools. Using data spanning from 1990 to 2000, I document changes in the racial composition and levels of segregation in schools while taking into account levels of residential segregation in school districts. The results indicate that while charter schools appear to be racially distinct; this is a result of their location in districts that are already highly segregated by residence. Once this fact is taken into account, charter schools are not furthering segregation in public schools.

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Presented in Session 162: New Findings on Segregation