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A Spatial Analysis on Charter School Access in the New York Metropolitan Area

by Jin Lee & Christopher A. Lubienski - 2021

Background: Extant literature has consistently indicated that access to charter school markets is shaped by social geography. Given interest in location shown by charter schools and parents, estimating potential spatial access to charter schools has become instrumental in understanding equal opportunities for charter school enrollment in metropolitan areas with preexisting residential segregation.

Purpose: By considering the increasing significance of sociogeography, this article asks whether students have equal opportunities for potential spatial access to charter schools across communities and how disparities in charter school access are related to housing patterns.

Setting: This study focuses on 122 charter schools in the New York metropolitan region, a highly segregated metropolitan area in the United States where charter schools are a primary component of education reform.

Research Design: The first part of this study illustrates patterns of spatial accessibility of the area’s charter schools, within a 20-minute commuting time, to students aged 5–13 years by employing the enhanced two-step floating catchment area method using a Gaussian function. The next part of the study tests the hypothesis that students are able to access charter schools equitably and irrespective of their place of residence. The spatial lag regression model is used to compare distributions of potential spatial accessibility with 15 demographic and socioeconomic variables.

Findings: Even after controlling for disproportionate population sizes by census tract, the potential need for charter schools is matched inequitably with the supply of educational service providers. The spatial lag regression results indicate that children in areas less accessible to charter schools within a convenient travel period tend to be exposed to communities with more populations of color, higher unemployed groups, and less expensive housing.

Conclusions: The findings offer empirical evidence that access to charter school differs depending on demographic and socioeconomic attributes, in significant combination with geography, illuminating charter school location strategies in real-world contexts. Though charter schools have been promoted as a vehicle to offer significant equity advantages across politically designed and strictly operated school attendance boundaries, charter schools in metropolitan New York exercise a distinct and profound form of pseudo-zoning by use of location strategies to exclude certain children who may be considered less desirable.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 123 Number 2, 2021, p. 1-30
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23581, Date Accessed: 4/19/2021 9:12:36 PM

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About the Author
  • Jin Lee
    University of Louisiana at Lafayette
    E-mail Author
    JIN LEE, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Foundations and Leadership at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her research focuses on school choice programs and urban school reforms. Her current work examines neighborhood effects on equity and access, including racial disproportionality in school discipline and local market responses to competitive environments. She has published journal articles in Journal of Education Policy, Education and Urban Society, and Geographical Research.
  • Christopher A. Lubienski
    Indiana University, Bloomington
    E-mail Author
    CHRISTOPHER A. LUBIENSKI, Ph.D., is a professor of education policy at Indiana University. He is also a fellow with the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado and a visiting professor at East China Normal University in Shanghai, and he was previously Sir Walter Murdoch Visiting Professor at Murdoch University in Western Australia. His research focuses on education policy, reform, and the political economy of education, with a particular concern for issues of equity and access. His 2019 book, Learning to Teach in an Era of Privatization: Global Trends in Teacher Preparation (coedited with T. James Brewer), was named a winner of the 2020 AESA Critic’s Choice Book Award.
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