National Analysis Looks at Charter Schools’ Impact on Segregation

In 1954, the Supreme Court ended segregation in America’s schools and universities through its Brown v. Board of Education ruling. But although the decision ended separating school attendance based on race, some have argued that charter schools have impacted segregation since the ruling.

In a new analysis, charters are shown to increase segregation within school districts but decrease segregation between districts in the same metro area. The report, researched and filed by members of Education Next, details how charters have affected segregation in its schools based on enrollment and demographics of their locations.

Here are some of the key findings discovered through the research:

Charter Growth

Charter growth is shown to increase the segregation of black and Hispanic students within school districts. The growth of charter schools has, in turn, produced small jumps in segregation for black and Hispanic students within school districts and cities. Charter growth accounts for about five percent of total segregation throughout the country, according to the report.

When it comes to metropolitan areas, charter growth has not had a major impact on segregation, on the other hand. The effect that charter growth has had on black and Hispanic students within school districts is instead offset by a dip in segregation between school districts in the same metro area.

Effects by State

Charter growth effects can vary state by state. Charter growth has increased the segregation of black and Hispanic students within school districts in states like North Carolina, Louisiana, Rhode Island, and New Mexico. In states such as Arizona, Florida, and Oregon, Education Next found that charters have had no effect on segregation.


Charter schools, on average, enroll higher portions of black students than white students in elementary schools and middle schools, while enrolling higher numbers of Hispanic students in middle and high schools. This data reflects the region these schools are planted in as charter elementary, middle, and high schools are more likely to be located in census tracts with larger numbers of black and Hispanic residents.

Education Next found that the average separation of black and Hispanic students remained stable over a certain amount of time. Relative measures of segregation show that the issue has remained the same over the last 15 years while metropolitan areas have seen a slight decline since 2000.

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