Charters' Study: Tolerance Before Economics

Diverse settings help students develop high-level critical thinking and cognitive skills and encourage children to grow into tolerant adults, according to a report that suggests reducing charter schools' focus on economic need.

Rather than emphasizing funding charter schools that educate high-poverty and minority students, government funders and philanthropists should encourage charter schools to develop diverse student bodies, the Century Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, said in its findings released in May.

Schools that are racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse are better for the kids, it said, and low-income students from diverse charter schools have better networks to facilitate employment when it comes time to look for a job.

The report made the following recommendations:

  • Federal policy should create incentives for located charter schools in areas that combat racial and socioeconomic isolation. 
  • The U.S. Department of Education should increase funding for schools that encourage diversity - particularly those that use income-based lotteries to create diverse student bodies. 
  • On the state level, governments should allow regional or inter-district charter schools, rather than restricting charters to individual districts, as is done in some states. 
  • The states should also create incentives for charters to create diverse schools. Those incentives should be comparable to the priorities some states place on schools with concentrations of at-risk or low-income students. 
  • Foundations should broaden their portfolio of charter schools, to include charters that serve low-income children by educating the in integrated environments - not just charters that serve high-poverty students.