Charter Schools: Characteristics & Patterns

.. some might say that traditional public schools have a monopoly on K-12 education. Monopolies tend to stifle competition. Without competition, existing K-12 schools and infrastructure might tend to lag, and offer declining or poor quality educational opportunities. Traditional K-12 schools infrastructure might be inhibited due to the impact of unions and perhaps less than optimal HR operations. It might be argued that such situations more typically exist in areas with lower economic prosperity. Can charter schools improve the competitive framework among K-12 schools? Can charter school also improve on the quality of educational opportunities served?

Charter schools are schools that provide free elementary and/or secondary education to eligible students under a specific charter granted by the state legislature or other authority. This section provides information on the approximate 6,400 charter schools identified by the U.S. Department of Education for the 2013-14 school year. See the more detailed related Web section.

Charter Schools, 2013-14
Using GIS tools, it is easy to see the geographic distribution of charter schools and how some counties/sub-state regions have concentrations. America’s 6,934 charter schools (red markers) as of the 2013-14 school year.

— view developed using CV XE GIS; click graphic for larger view showing more detail.

Charter Schools, 2013-14, Houston Region
The following view illustrates a zoom-in view of the Houston, TX region. Charter schools (red markers) are shown in context of school districts (black boundary, yellow label. It is easy to see the relative few charter schools in Spring Branch ISD (see pointer) compared to Alief ISD and Houston ISD

— view developed using CV XE GIS; click graphic for larger view showing more detail.

Additional Selected Views
Chicago, IL
Dallas, TX
Los Angeles, CA
Washington, DC
New York, NY

Selected Characteristics
All K-12 Schools
• All K-12 schools with enrollment: 96,307
• Enrollment of all K-12 schools: 50,195,195
Charter Schools
• Charter schools with enrollment: 6,375
• Enrollment of all charter schools:
– Total population enrollment: 2,519,245
– Hispanic population (of any race) enrollment: 755,696
– Black, non-Hispanic population enrollment: 682,421
– White, non-Hispanic population enrollment: 878,375
• Enrollment of charter schools with 50+ enrollment (5,986): 2,507,498
• Charter schools having 12th grade enrollment: 2,276
• Charter schools having 20 or more 12th grade enrollment: 1,648
• Charter schools with Free/Reduced Lunch Fee participation: 5,908
• Charter schools Title I Eligible (Public Law 103-382): 4,451

Next Steps
Can charter school improve on the quality of educational opportunities served? Data and tools reviewed here can help answer that and related questions. Contact me about using these resources. There is no broad, blanket conclusion. It is somewhat a case-by-case, district-by-district, situation that needs to be examined. Weak and under-staffed/under-funded charter schools cannot alone lead to improvement.

About the Author
— Warren Glimpse is former senior Census Bureau statistician responsible for innovative data access and use operations. He is also the former associate director of the U.S. Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards for data access and use. He has more than 20 years of experience in the private sector developing data resources and tools for integration and analysis of geographic, demographic, economic and business data.

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