Nicole Stelle Garnett (Notre Dame Law School) has posted Are Charters Enough Choice? School Choice and the Future of Catholic Schools. The abstract follows.
This contribution to a Notre Dame Law Review symposium on “Law and Educational Innovation” critiques the oft-repeated assertion that private-school-choice programs, such as tuition vouchers or tax credits, are unnecessary because charter schools provide sufficient educational choices. This essay is, in essence, a response to this “charters are enough,” argument. It proceeds from the simple reality that current education policy in most states offers Catholic school leaders an unacceptable ultimatum: If you want access to public education funds for your schools, then secularize and relinquish control of them. As a result of this ultimatum, Catholic schools will continue to close by the dozens in the inner city neighborhoods each year, and many of them will be replaced by charter schools, either by design or default. For reasons addressed in the essay, Catholic schools’ departure is a loss for civil society, especially for the urban communities where they have served for decades. Furthermore, it is a loss that could be mitigated by school-choice devices that make private schools financially accessible for the children living in these communities who desperately need the high-quality education that Catholic schools have long provided. Arguing that policy makers have failed to come to terms with the profound, unfortunate consequences of Catholic schools’ rapid disappearance from urban neighborhoods, the essay builds a case for a shift in education policy that embraces both charter schools and private-school-choice mechanisms.