Racial and Economic Segregation in Baltimore's Public School System: The Complex Role of Charter Schools

Authors: Rob Neff*, Towson University
Topics: Urban Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: Segregation, Charter Schools, Baltimore, Education, Access
Session Type: Virtual Lightning Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 47
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores patterns of racial and economic segregation in Baltimore, and the role that that charter schools may play in modifying historical patterns of deep division in the city. Previous research has found that charter schools tend to be less racially segregated compared to the rest of the public schools in Baltimore even though they may still present barriers for economic desegregation. These preliminary findings may be partially explained by the fact that students from anywhere in the city are eligible to attend any charter school anywhere in the city, reducing the impact of neighborhood demographics on the demographics of charter schools. However, students' ability to actually attend the school of their choice is constrained in part by transportation concerns, as busing is not available for most students in elementary and middle charter schools. This is further complicated by the availability of underutilized "geographic waivers" that would allow charter schools to admit a small but significant percentage of their student population from the surrounding neighborhoods. Statistical and modeling techniques were used to determine the degree to which existing patterns of neighborhood segregation are reflected in segregation patterns in schools. Results suggest that while patterns of residential segregation still are reflected in segregation patterns of the student population, other complex geographic forces and some elements of charter school legislation may be part of a racial desegregation trend in Baltimore, even as access to some well-performing charter schools remains elusive for students from historically disenfranchised neighborhoods.

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