Fordham Report: Addressing Charter School Deserts
May 4, 2018

There is a common misconception that the recent decline in charter school growth is due to oversaturation. But a recent report released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is proof that this hypothesis is simply not the case.

The report, Charter School Deserts, exposes high poverty areas across the nation where families have little to no educational options. A charter school desert is defined in the report as an area with three or more contiguous census tracts with moderate or high poverty and no charter elementary schools as of the 2014-15 school year. The researchers determined that 39 of the 42 states with a charter law have at least one desert each. The report is also accompanied by a website that enables users to zoom into specific census tracts to determine areas that are ripe for charter expansion.

The report draws two main conclusions for advocates to note:

  • The charter sector needs to move beyond city boundaries.
  • The charter movement must address the policy and practical barriers in some states that keep charter schools from locating where they are needed.

Advocates might also find the report’s accompanying video series of interest. Each video explores how different stakeholders, such as community members and policymakers, can work to address charter deserts.

If you are interested in learning more about the policy implications of charter school deserts, reach out for a connection. Network members can also explore our priority survey results to find out how other advocates are working to change charter policies in their states.


Ryan Cantrell

Ryan is PIE Network's Senior Director, Charters, Choice, and Political Engagement


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