NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

On The Charter School Front

February 7, 1996

Fed up with waiting for slow-moving bureaucracies to improve public education, parents and teachers in some communities are organizing charter schools and private schools to improve student performance.

The Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Independent Education estimates there are 390 such schools nationwide, teaching 70,000 to 80,000 students. They include schools with African-American curricula, charter schools employing a more traditional approach and private religious and non-religious schools.

  • Most of the schools are small, with 50 to 400 students.
  • Private and religious schools charge tuition ranging from $1,500 to $4,000 per year -- and have long waiting lists
  • On average, 22 percent of students come from families making less than $15,000 per year; 35 percent from families with incomes of $15,000 to $30,000; and only 13 percent from families making $50,000 or more.

Blacks provide much of the impetus behind the charter school movement. In Michigan, one of six states with laws allowing wide latitude in the creation of charter schools -- along with Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Minnesota -- blacks constitute only 14 percent of the state's general population and 16 percent of its student enrollment. Yet since January of last year, 31 percent of the 42 charter schools opened there have been started by blacks, and 39 percent of charter school students are black.

Source: Hugh Pearson, "An Urban Push for Self-Reliance" Wall Street Journal , Wednesday, February 7, 1996.


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