This policy brief addresses the challenge of using charter school policy to enhance equal educational opportunity. Three overriding assumptions guide the brief’s recommendations: (1) charter schools will be part of our public educational system for the foreseeable future; (2) charter schools are neither inherently good, nor inherently bad; and (3) charter schools should be employed to further goals of equal educational opportunity, including racial diversity and school success. The creation of charter schools is just one among a variety of policy tools at the disposal of local, state, and national policymakers. As with all educational policy tools, one challenge is to wield the tool in a manner that will enhance equity and opportunity. Part I of this brief provides an overview of equal educational opportunity and its legal foundations and offers a review of prior research documenting issues concerning charter schools and their impact on equity and diversity. Part II presents detailed recommendations for charter school authorizers, as well as state and federal policymakers for using charter schools to advance equal educational opportunity. Separately, we are publishing a companion document based on these detailed recommendations, providing model statutory code language that can be employed by state policymakers to ensure that charter schools attend to long-established policy goals.
Madison Schools’ charter policy (pdf).