CHARTER SCHOOLS AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
October 6, 2005
Charter schools are independent public schools exempt from many of the rules and regulations that impede innovation and flexibility in conventional public schools. Moreover, they are increasingly becoming a tool for nonprofit and commercial builders to lure young families into urban and suburban housing developments, says Danielle Georgiou, an intern with the National Center for Policy Analysis.
Housing developers and community-based organizations are assisting charter schools by leasing, renovating or building new facilities. A charter school within a subdivision makes the development more appealing, thus increasing housing sales while lowering controversy and uncertainty over where children can go to school. Many of these new developments are in city centers, according to the Journal of Housing and Community Development. Better neighborhood schools in urban areas can reduce middle-class flight to the suburbs, a trend tracked through many states, says Georgiou:
- In Massachusetts, the Lawrence Community Development Fund created a neighborhood charter school that runs a dual-language program for children in kindergarten through eighth grade.
- Universal Community Homes, which purchases abandoned properties and transforms them into affordable townhouses, sponsors the Universal Institute Charter School in south Philadelphia, Pa.; in 2003 the school served 400 students and it now has a waiting list of another 400.
- In the North Lawndale community of Chicago, local developer Cecil Butler leased an unused building to LEARN Charter School; currently, Butler and the school are involved in a $6.6 million project to build a larger campus that will allow enrollment to expand from 108 to 450 preschool and elementary school students.
Whether the new housing development charter schools are in urban or suburban areas, they will help improve public schools by providing competition. Thus, as the partnerships between charter schools and housing developments continue, urban renewal and neighborhood revitalization initiatives will stand to benefit families, developing inner cities and traditional public schools, says Georgiou.
Source: Danielle Georgiou, "Charter Schools and Urban Development," National Center for Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. 531, October 6, 2005.
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