Charter schools are regional, not neighborhood, schools

Some are outraged that developer David Levinson wants to locate a charter school near his housing development in southern Harnett County.  According to an article published in the News & Observer, one of my friends on the Left said that locating a charter school near Levinson’s Anderson Creek Club development “is a little icky.”

But the truth is that a charter school comes with fewer student assignment guarantees than a traditional district school.  Consider the following:

1. Districts typically assign students to schools geographically.  That means that the children of residents of the Anderson Creek Club would likely be assigned to the same district school.  On the other hand, there are no geographic restrictions to charter school enrollment.  The school cannot refuse to enroll children from other parts of Harnett County or even children from other counties.  Indeed, I suspect that families from Lee, Moore, Hoke, and Cumberland counties will enroll their children in the Anderson Creek charter school because there are few charter school options in the area.  Inter-county enrollment is a pretty common phenomenon among charter schools in North Carolina and the Anderson Creek charter will be no different.

2. If applications outnumber seats, charter schools must use a lottery to determine student admission.  They cannot grant a preference to, say, residents of the Anderson Creek Club.  District schools may manipulate assignment boundaries to include or exclude subdivisions or communities.  Just ask Wake County about the practice of manipulating assignment boundaries.

3. There is no reason to assume that Anderson Creek residents will want their children to attend the charter school.  Yes, proximity is a plus for many parents, but school choice decisions are based on more than just location.  For some parents, curricular and extracurricular considerations may outweigh convenience.

In sum, charter schools are not neighborhood schools.  They are regional schools and always have been.

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