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MANAGEMENT UPDATE.

FINDING THE ROOTS OF “STARK INEQUALITIES” IN CHARTER SCHOOLS


On January 11, Scientific Reports published a peer reviewed study that examined racial discrimination in access to public services – with an emphasis on charter schools.


The report, written by Elizabeth Bell of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, and Sebastian Jilke of The McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, found “stark inequalities in access to public services.” Their findings have been echoed by a host of other academic studies.



Their contribution was in demonstrating that one easily missed reason for discrimination in charter schools does not lie in implicit or explicit racism, but in management’s focus on budgetary factors. Specifically, they attribute some of their findings of inequal treatment of young people to “cream skimming, when there are economic incentives to prioritize easier-to-serve clientele.”


For example, they write “race may serve as a shorthand for being a potentially costly client,” because it is perceived by many as having a correlation with the need to remediate for English language proficiency, lower standardized test scores, discipline problems and greater special needs.


Based on nationwide email correspondence with charter school principals, the authors’ write, “Black email aliases are less likely to receive a response, are less likely to receive information on how to apply, are more likely to be asked follow-up questions about additional screening criteria, are less likely being told that everyone can apply, and are less likely to be greeted and offered a salutation in email correspondence.”


Their conclusion: “Our work provides evidence that scholars and policymakers should pay greater attention to the economic incentive structures within public service organizations and how they affect racial equity.”


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