Fordham Foundation on K-12 Economic Segregation

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Fordham has a new study on what they call “private public schools” aka schools that serve hardly any low-income children. Personally I prefer the term Economic Segregation Academies.

Yes kids, calm down, they have data for specific metro areas available online.  So much for the common school myth.

9 Responses to Fordham Foundation on K-12 Economic Segregation

  1. Brian says:

    Sorry Matt, no offense to you, but this study seems pretty crappy.

    First of all, they identify what they refer to as “private public schools” using a blanket approach with no accounting for local demographics and, more importantly, no comparison group. This could have been so much better had they shown that there are plenty of actual private schools that DO serve poor kids.

    Second, it is a disservice to the word “private” to use it as a synonym for snobbish exclusivity. If I were an operator of an inner-city private school that had a mission to serve poor kids, I would be offended. Private doesn’t mean bad, but in this study, it does.

  2. Patrick says:

    Yeah I don’t know why they used the term “private” as a pejorative, especially since inner city Catholic schools serve poor students almost exclusively. Elitist Public Schools would have been better. Has anyone made the suggestion to Fordham yet?

  3. Brian Gottlob says:

    That the most pervasive form of school choice occurs via the selection of where families choose to live is an important one. That this form of choice is costly and impractical for a majority of families and results in substantial segration along economic lines in public schools is even more relevant. Choice is about removing constraints to a quality education and by definition higher income families are not constrained. We know that choice benefits those who are most constrained in their educational options but too often opponents are allowed to portray exactly the opposite.

    I think this study could be more effective in making clear how residential choice is currently a defining characteristic of public education. With a better understanding of how choice currently operates then the goal of introducing a more effective and efficient system of choice may seem less radical to the public at large.

    That said, its nice to see a broadening of research topics in support of choice.

  4. McShane says:

    I think, to respond to Brian’s issue (which I agree with), it might be effective to see how proximity to/zoning into these schools affects property values. Whatever extra parents pay in housing price to attend these schools could then be seen as tuition, making the schools more “private”.

  5. Matthewladner says:


    I also don’t like the phrase “private public schools” so I suggested an alternative. As for your point about taking no account of local demographics, I think the whole point is that housing patterns are very segregated by income, and thus public schools are very segregated by income.

    Through inter and intra district choice policies, such things can be lessened. The word on the street here in Arizona, however, is that many of the tony public schools are always “full” to kids from certain districts. Kind of like when the Cleveland voucher program offers a lot more money to suburban public schools than to private schools, and mysteriously enough, not a single suburban Cleveland school has an empty seat for inner city Cleveland kids.

    In 1999, I interviewed a Superintendent of a suburban Detroit district which chose not to participate in the intradistrict choice. I asked him why, and he told me:

    “I think the feeling is that we’ve got a pretty good thing here, and we don’t want to let the unwashed masses in.”

    It wasn’t even possible to infer racial overtones to that statement…. not even a little tiny bit.

  6. Brian says:

    Yes, Matt, I prefer your “Economic Segregation Academies.” And, I had to criticize their lack of a comparison group because I’ve also criticized the recent reports from the Civil Rights Project and the EPIC study of charter schools. Both those studies made this same error (well, the CRP study used the wrong comparison group–state demographics, and the EPIC study, like this one, didn’t use one at all). So,I gotta be consistent.

  7. allen says:

    In the historical context this an odd complaint. After all, the school district exists to justify and enforce differential funding.

    The people of a hundred and fifty years ago weren’t stupid so they would’ve understood that lots of little, independent public education entities, each with their own, little elected board, would lead to wildly varying results along with inevitable waste through institutionalized duplication of effort.

    Since they weren’t stupid they must have had some overriding purpose that subordinated the inevitable waste and lack of uniformity. As far as I can see the only such purpose would’ve been to assure wealthy parents that they could continue to lavish their wealth on their children alone and still be part of the public education system. Well, the system’s working as designed.

    It’s worth remembering that Brown v. Topeka was decided due to *intra*-district discrimination.

  8. Greg Forster says:

    Allen, a hundred and fifty years ago – and as late as 1950 – there were many thousands of tiny school districts in America. In the last 60 years they were gradually consolidated, mostly using the argument for eliminating duplication, but perhaps it’s relevant that the teaching profession was unionizing and what we now know as “the blob” was organizing itself at about the same time.

    Oh, and the argument about efficiency from eliminating duplication is factually false. The inefficiencies created by large districts far outweigh the efficiencies. It’s a consistent finding across a lot of high-N research that having more and smaller districts in the same geographic area produces better results.

  9. […] the right of many more well-to-do students to attend private “public” schools (or Economic Segregation Academies, if you […]

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