The Relationship Between Charter Schools and Catholic Schools

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Research Question:  How has the growth of charter schools negatively affected catholic schools over the past two decades? What does this growth look like on a national level as well as a local one, specifically in the city of Hartford?

Relevance:  School choice has been a heavily studied topic throughout our semester and is constantly debated by education reformers at a national level. The rise of charter schools throughout the country continues to increase as families have become more dissatisfied with traditional public schooling and look for alternatives. Charter schools have been highly criticized by education reformers who don’t believe that they are a long-term solution to ensuring all children have access to a public school education. One reformer who is particularly against the implementation of charter schools over traditional public schools is Diane Ravitch. The reason I’ve decided to focus my research on the impact charter schools have had specifically on catholic schools is because of a comment she included in her book that was particularly interesting to me. Though she is against most programs within the school choice movement, she is not against catholic schools as an alternative for students who live in low-income communities.  I think it will be particularly interesting to examine how, as charter schools continue to increase across the country, what this does to catholic schools. Often times, catholic schools are forced to shut down or are replaced by chartered schools because they have more government support and access to funding.  I’m going to examine this relationship in urban areas throughout the country, specifically in low-income communities, as well as providing one specific example of a catholic school in Hartford, St. Justin, which was replaced by Jumoke Academy, a charter school.

Research strategy:  In order to fully understand the relationship between charter schools and catholic schools, I plan on doing a substantial amount of research on what the major differences are between these two types of schools, and how they vary in teaching approach, student population, and funding. The library database will be exceedingly helpful in this respect because of the various databases focused specifically on education. Education Full Text and JSTOR have already been really helpful, and I plan on continuing to use them as I get further into my research. will also be useful when I’m discussing the impact of charters on catholic schools at a national level. My strategy for finding information on the transformation from St. Justin’s to Jumoke Academy will be much different.  I’m going to search the Hartford Courant Historical, as well as Lexis Nexis Academic to find news stories specific to Hartford.


Booker, Kevin, Tim R. Sass, Gill, and Ron Zimmer. “The Effects of Charter High Schools on Educational Attainment.” Journal of Labor Economics 29, no. 2 (April 1, 2011): 377–415. doi:10.1086/658089.

Brinig, Margaret F., and Nicole Stelle Garnett. “Catholic Schools, Charter Schools, and Urban Neighborhoods.” The University of Chicago Law Review 79, no. 1 (January 1, 2012): 31–57. doi:10.2307/41552894.

Cavanagh, Sean. “Catholic Ed., K-12 Charters Squaring Off.” Education Week 32, no. 2 (August 29, 2012): 1–13.

Donlevy, J. Kent. “Catholic Schools: The Inclusion of Non-Catholic Students.” Canadian Journal of Education / Revue Canadienne De L’éducation 27, no. 1 (January 1, 2002): 101–118. doi:10.2307/1602190.



4 thoughts on “The Relationship Between Charter Schools and Catholic Schools”

  1. As we discussed in your pre-proposal meeting, this research topic has great promise. Your current research question is: “How has the growth of charter schools negatively affected catholic schools over the past two decades? What does this growth look like on a national level as well as a local one, specifically in the city of Hartford?” I’d like to suggest two small revisions:
    a) Consider dropping “negatively” in the first sentence, because it’s conceivable that there are ways that the charter school movement could be helping Catholic schools by focusing attention on alternatives to district schools, or political support for moving funds to those alternatives (whether charter or parochial or private schools). Dropping this word would still allow you to focus on negative impacts, if that’s primarily what you find, but also opens up other possible avenues.
    b) Use capital “C” when referring to schools operated by the Roman Catholic church, a proper noun.

    Furthermore, think carefully about your explicit or implicit causal analysis. In your proposal, you wrote this phrase: “. . . catholic schools are forced to shut down or are replaced by chartered schools. . .” Looking at the Hartford case and its chronology will help you to make more thoughtful claims. For example, the Aug 25, 1992 Hartford Courant article, “Schools Get Respect but Dozens Close,” reported that “St. Justin’s School in Hartford, the last school in the archdiocese with a predominantly black enrollment attached to a predominantly black parish, closed in 1989.” But Jumoke Charter school, which now occupies that building, did not start up until the mid-1990s. Was there a causal relationship between one closing and the other opening? That’s why readers like me are counting on you to thoughtfully interpret the evidence.

    Keep me posted as you continue researching and let me know if you need any assistance with Hartford source materials. There’s a gap in the Hartford Courant online coverage from 1987-1991, and it’s possible that I have some key news stories scanned in my computer, based on work done several years ago by this student researcher:

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