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School Choice Erroneously Proposed as Way to Promote Economic Development

BOULDER, CO (June 20, 2017) – EdChoice and the American Enterprise Institute each recently released a report contending that the introduction of school choice can promote economic development in economically distressed urban areas. The first report presents a case study of a charter school that has, according to the report, contributed to the economic development of the city of Santa Ana, California. The second report presents a proposal for a hypothetical voucher-like program that, if implemented, would purportedly spur economic development in high-poverty neighborhoods by luring higher income families into those neighborhoods.

Jennifer Jellison Holme and Emily Germain of The University of Texas at Austin reviewed Renewing Our Cities: A Case Study on School Choice’s Role in Urban Renewal and CPR Scholarships: Using Private School Choice to Attack Concentrated Poverty, Crime, and Unemployment.

The reviewers find that both reports make unsupported claims that rely on flawed logic and data. The EdChoice report’s primary weakness is that it fails to collect and analyze data related to the report’s causal assertion that economic development in Santa Ana resulted from the establishment of the charter school. Both reports also overlook significant bodies of relevant research literature. In particular, the American Enterprise Institute report’s claims about the benefits of the proposed program to publicly fund private schooling are unsupported by existing research.

The reviewers also point out that both reports subscribe to an ahistorical explanation for racial and economic segregation in this country – one that is undergirded by market and economic theory and largely ignores the role that government policy played in engineering white, middle-class flight to the suburbs and persistent poverty in urban centers.

The reviewers conclude that these reports offer little useful guidance for policy or practice for those seeking to reform urban schools, to support low-income students, or to uplift urban neighborhoods. The reports’ proposed solutions, which are heavily reliant on markets and trickle-down economic theory, are not only flawed but threaten to exacerbate the educational and geographic inequities that exist.

Find the review by Jennifer Jellison Holme and Emily Germain at:

Find Renewing Our Cities: A Case Study on School Choice’s Role in Urban Renewal, by Bartley R. Danielsen, David M. Harrison, and Jing Zhao, published by EdChoice, at:

Find CPR Scholarships: Using Private School Choice to Attack Concentrated Poverty, Crime, and Unemployment, by Bartley R. Danielsen, published by American Enterprise Institute, at:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project ( provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

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