Academic journal article Journal of Law and Education

Chalk Talks- Discrimination Based on Economic Status during the Charter School Enrollment Process and How Kentucky Law Prevents It

Academic journal article Journal of Law and Education

Chalk Talks- Discrimination Based on Economic Status during the Charter School Enrollment Process and How Kentucky Law Prevents It

Article excerpt


Kentucky joined the majority in 2017 when Governor Matt ? evin signed legislation legally permitting charter schools.1 While only a handful of states ban charter schools, the debate over whether they improve education endures. Charter schools are publicly funded and are governed by an organization under a legislative contract with the state.2 "The charter exempts the school from certain state or local rules and regulations. In return for flexibility and autonomy, the charter school must meet the accountability standards outlined in its charter."3

Proponents of charter schools argue that they "focus on high academic standards, smaller class sizes, individualized class sizes, individualized instruction, community and parent involvement, and other unique approaches geared towards scholastic success."4 Conversely, critics argue that because charter schools are "pressured by the increased accountability for producing superior academic results, they sometimes [discriminate against] students based on their race, class, disability, or limited English proficiency."5 Some even "fear that traditional neighborhood schools will deteriorate and that the charter school movement will disproportionately burden lower classes and children of color."6

The argument that charter schools discriminate against certain classes has been extensively researched, especially within the context of racial discrimination. This is because Title VI of the Civil Rights of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.7 However, with many of Kentucky's rural counties facing drastic levels of poverty, poverty-based discrimination poses the biggest concern.8 Therefore, this Article examines the risk of discrimination against students based on economic status within the charter school enrollment process and how Kentucky law prevents it.


Charter schools have officially been around since 1991, when Minnesota passed the first charter school law.9 With the passing of Kentucky's charter school legislation in 2017, all but six states have laws allowing charter school formation.10 However, it must be noted that "charter school laws vary from state to state and often differ on several important factors."11

As of 2017-18, seventeen states and Washington, DC had at least 100 charter schools, with nine states having between 50 and 99.12 Overall, the United States has "more than 7,000 charter schools [enrolling] nearly 3.2 million students."13 Furthermore, growth continues as parents are more willing to send their children to charter schools, evidenced by a 5% increase of 150,000 more students attending charters in 2016-17 than the previous year.14 A Phi Delta Kappan study supports this increased willingness, finding that "seventeen percent of parents would choose a public charter school for their child if location and capacity were not an issue."15

With demand on the rise, it is unlikely that this many students will be enrolled. Consequently, prospective students will be denied enrollment on discriminatory grounds as these schools fill to capacity. Therefore, discrimination in the charter school enrollment process is even more important today since charter schools continue to grow in impressive fashion.


The movement towards recognizing education as a fundamental right has more traditional roots and is important in "lift[ing] marginalized groups out of poverty."16 Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution do not guarantee the right to education. The first implementation of the idea was in Article 13 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, stating that "every person has the right to an education, which should be based on the principles of liberty, morality and human solidarity."17 However, the most recognized implementation is Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, declaring that "everyone has the right to education," and that education should be compulsory and free in the elementary stages, generally available at the technical or professional level, and equally accessible at the highest level. …

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