Escalating Evidence on Charter Segregation
February 9, 2010

On heels of UCLA study, new study finds charter schools operated by corporations are segregated by race, income, disability and language

Contact: Teri Battaglieri – (517) 203-2940;
Gary Miron – (269) 599-7965;

Report url:

EAST LANSING, Mi., Feb. 9, 2010 – A comprehensive examination of enrollment patterns in schools operated by private corporations finds these schools segregate by race, family income, disabilities, and English language learner status. As compared with their local public school districts, these schools operated by Education Management Organizations, or EMOs, are substantially more segregated, and the strong segregative pattern found in 2001 is virtually unchanged through 2007.

The study, funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, finds:

  • Charter schools tended to be strongly concentrated in racial or ethnic terms – either more heavily populated with minority students, or more heavily populated with White students – compared to the districts that send students to those schools. "Only one-fourth of the charter schools had a composition relatively similar to that of the sending district," according to the report.
  • The charter schools in this study draw their students from the extremes of family income, divided into either largely high-income or largely low-income populations. "Between 70% and 73% of the schools were in the extreme categories of the scale, depending on the comparison."
  • Most of these EMO-operated schools enrolled substantially fewer special education children than their home districts. At the same time a small number of charter schools focused almost exclusively on students with special needs.
  • More than half of these privately managed schools enrolled far fewer English language learners than did their home districts. About one-third of the schools had an ELL population similar to their district.
  •  "The segregation patterns of 2000-2001 were virtually identical to those in 2006-2007. Consequently, a pattern of segregation attributable to EMO-operated schools is being maintained."

The new study, Schools without Diversity: Education Management Organizations, Charter Schools, and the Demographic Stratification of the American School System, is written by Gary Miron, Jessica Urschel, and Elana Tornquist of Western Michigan University, and William Mathis of the University of Colorado at Boulder. It comes to conclusions remarkably similar to another nationwide study, released last week by UCLA's Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles. The two studies, conducted independently using different data, different researchers and different methods, both found extensive segregation in charter schools.

Together, these two new studies paint a powerful picture of charters adding to the school segregation caused by the nation's highly segregated neighborhoods. "Given that educational equality, whether financial or programmatic, has not occurred in this nation, the perpetuation of educational policies that have the effect of further dividing society is troubling and calls for rectification," says lead researcher Gary Miron.

"Charter schools were originally intended to provide distinctive learning environments," Miron observes. "As it turns out, what is often most distinctive about charters is the composition of their student bodies." The schools show evidence both of White flight and of minority flight. "Parents are selecting schools where their child will experience less diversity," says Miron.

The new EMO study relies on an extensive database of nearly 1,000 schools which represents 90% of the schools operated by for-profit and nonprofit Education Management Organizations, firms that primarily manage charter schools. The researchers constructed the database from sources that included the National Center for Education Statistics' Common Core of Data as well as annual profiles of for-profit and nonprofit EMOs that are produced for the Commercialism in Education Research Unit at ASU.

Find the report, Schools without Diversity: Education Management Organizations, Charter Schools, and the Demographic Stratification of the American School System, on the web at:


The mission of the Great Lakes Center is to improve public education for all students in the Great Lakes region through the support and dissemination of high quality, academically sound research on education policy and practices.

Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at: