The Political Economy of School Choice: Support for Charter Schools Across States and School Districts

Stoddard, C. & Corcoran, S.P.
Journal of Urban Economics, July 2007, Vol. 62 Issue 1, p27-54, 28p.

Public charter schools are one of the fastest growing education reforms in the US, currently serving more than a million students. Though the movement for greater school choice is widespread, its implementation has been uneven. State laws differ greatly in the degree of latitude granted charter schools, and-holding constant state support-states and localities vary widely in the availability of and enrollment in these schools. In this paper, we use a panel of demographic, financial, and school performance data to examine the support for charters at the state and local levels. Results suggest that growing population heterogeneity and income inequality-in addition to persistently low student outcomes-are associated with greater support for charter schools. Teachers unions have been particularly effective in slowing or preventing liberal state charter legislation; however, conditional on law passage and strength, local participation in charter schools rises with the share of unionized teachers.

Wagner Faculty