Disparities in Charter School Resources
Recent findings show that students attending charter schools in the United States achieve at comparable or lower levels to those enrolled in regular public schools, perhaps due to uneven quality and disparities in the levels of resources acquired by charter schools. But little is known as to what state and local factors contribute to disparate levels of resources in the charter school sector. This article examines how local context, the charter school’s organizational form, and state policies may influence material and human resources obtained by charter schools and their capacity to innovate. Drawing on data from the U.S. Schools and Staffing Survey for the 1999–2000 school year, this article finds marked differences among charter schools situated in different U.S. states in terms of teacher qualities, student–staff ratios, length of the school day, and the propensity to unionize. Charter schools rely less on uncredentialed teachers in states that more tightly regulate the sector, and state spending is associated with more equal teacher salaries among charter schools within states. But the lion’s share of variance in charter school resources is attributable to highly variable local contexts, not to state-level factors, especially the kinds of students served and the school’s organizational form. Charter schools serving predominately Black students rely on less experienced teachers who are more likely to be uncredentialed; their teachers also report more demanding working conditions and lower levels of efficacy compared with charter teachers working in white schools. Conversion charter schools pay staff over $5,100 more annually and rely much less on uncredentialed and part-time teachers than do start-up schools. This article examines implications for the reproduction of unequal student achievement within the charter school sector.
This article was originally published in the Journal of Education Policy by Taylor & Francis.