Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Here's a deeper look via School Finance 101 at one of the tenets of the Kristen Buras article for your morning:
Map 1. Year 2000 distribution of traditional public and charter schools in New Orleans
In the first figure, there are a significant number of decent size schools in the deeper red (higher % black) areas of the city. Citywide, there are a handful of charters scattered around. 
Now, here’s the distribution of charters and traditional public schools in 2010. Yes, the city as a whole lost a lot of population (but did rebound somewhat between 2006 and 2010, hence the interest in 2010). Quite strikingly, there are simply very few schools of any size now available in those deep red zones (shading still based on pre-Katrina population). And while there are charters scatted throughout the city, even the highest concentration of those schools is in areas with marginally lower pre-Katrina black populations. There are generally more schools and more larger schools in those neighborhoods. 
Again, circle size indicates enrollment size, and if the circle has a yellow triangle over it, the school is a charter school.  Further, I’ve kept the size scaling of circles on the same scale in this map as in the previous one. So, if a circle is smaller, it’s enrollment is smaller.
Map 2. Year 2010 distribution of traditional public and charter schools in New OrleansNow, it is indeed hard to untangle supply from demand here. One can make the argument that the population didn’t return, therefore there is no demand for schools in those areas previously inhabited by the city’s lowest income black populations. Alternatively, one can as reasonably (and more so after reading Buras) argue that the dearth of available public services may provide some explanation for why families have not returned, or have not been able to return. 
One might argue that because there exist so many “schools of choice” throughout the city, that geographic location doesn’t really matter. Ya’ just got to travel a bit. Sign up for one of those great schools over there! But research has consistently shown that even in “choice’ models geographic location/proximity is central to enrollment decisions.  Location matters. And having quality options nearby is important. In fact, parents will often favor location over publicly available “quality” measures, continuing enrollment in schools identified as persistently failing if/when other options are simply not geographically accessible. Then again, those “quality” measures aren’t always particularly meaningful. 
This population density map for individuals 18 and under suggests comparable population densities in those areas where school density (especially charter school density) has remained much lower: http://www.gnocdc.org/LossOfChildrenInNewOrleansNeighborhoods/Map3.html 
Authors such as Henry Levin have explained on numerous occasions that for a choice model to yield equitable distribution of opportunity, consumers must have equitable access to information on schools and equitable mobility among options. Clearly, equitable geographic access is out the window in Post-Katrina New Orleans. Yeah, I think we already knew this from various media reports. But sometimes I have to play with the data and map them myself for it to really sink in. Whether driven by geographic assignment or by choice enrollment, the distribution of educational opportunities in Map 2 above is troublesome. 
Far more troublesome is that so many have publicly pitched this New Orleans mixed delivery model as the key to the future of urban education.
Bold red italics are mine, by the way.

To further emphasize how the less-than-equitable geographic access has been working here, I direct you to exhibits A through E from back in 2008, especially D and E. There's also the go charter and save your school building sword of Damocles that has been held above greater New Orleans communities for far too long.

And with all of this, I find myself suffering from some terrible deja-vu.


Chuck Rummel said...

One aspect of being able to go to any school of your choosing (charter or not) without limit to geography, especially for those that rely on busing is the added burden to the busing system. When you are more concentrated within a neighborhood your bus routes are shorter, simpler, more efficient. By lifting that limitation you get kids that are on a bus for as long or longer than some adults take for their work commutes, not to mention additional fuel costs due to more buses driving more miles per route.

To your point about charters being pitched as the future beyond NOLA, a couple links you may have already seen:
http://www.incschools.org/ (for IL) and http://www.charterschoolcenter.org/(described on the IL site as "formerly run by the US Dept. of Education." Formerly? I find that curious.)

Leigh C. said...

The problem transportation-wise here for the kids is that only the RSD schools have the funding for busing. Schools not under the RSD umbrella have to fend for themselves to find money for busing. It's going to be interesting when the little guy's school is moved temporarily to a site much further away than most parents can get to...it' already been a struggle for some to get their children to the current campus in the first place.