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  • The Collapse of Catholic School Enrollment: The Unintended Consequence of the Charter School Movement

    On September 7, 1992, City Academy opened in Saint Paul, Minnesota; the first charter school in the nation. Today there are over 5,600 charter schools in forty-one states with a total enrollment of more than two million students. A charter school is an independent public school. It operates free from many of the laws and regulations that govern traditional public schools. In exchange for this flexibility, it agrees to the terms of a contract, or "charter," that defines its unique mission, academic goals, and accountability procedures. Supporters of the charter school argue it expands school choice. Charters provide free, publicly funded alternatives to the traditional public schools. This competition is intended to encourage innovation and excellence in public schools. Opponents of charter schools raise two objections. First, they claim that charter schools don‘t work. They cite Stanford University research showing that nationally only seventeen percent of charter schools outperform comparable public schools, while thirty-seven percent underperform. This paper measures the impact of charters on New York State Catholic school enrollment from 2000 to 2010. It also calculates the fiscal impact of charter schools on local and state government. As charter schools attract Catholic school students to the public sphere, those students strain public finances.