Session 5: Urban Education, Short Papers , , , ,

Geography of Charter School Opportunity: The Case of New York City Subway Lines and Education Deserts

Charisse Gulosino
University of Berkeley

The concept of “education deserts” has been recently used in education as a framework to identify areas where there are no colleges or neighborhood public schools. Like “food desert” neighborhoods’ lacking access to nutritious, safe and affordable food—there exist deserts where educational opportunities are all but nonexistent. While research on food deserts is in its infancy, research completed to date shows that deserts do not occur by chance but are systematically related based on conditions determined by race, class, and other contextual factors, resulting in gaps in service provision. It’s worth noting that the term “education desert” is relatively new; the operational definition serves as proof of concept for further inquiry into this phenomenon, particularly as it relates to expanding choice in poor neighborhoods. Current New York City Department of Education data and from multiple federal sources are used to determine the spatial terrain of regular public school high-need areas. The spatial analysis is superimposed on the subway public transportation network to produce a subway map of stops and lines quantified by over a wide range of potential students attending high-need public schools. The mapping of the public school high-need landscape and public transportation reveals that existing charter schools may expand in connected areas with dense proportions of vulnerable students in high-need public schools. These findings could be used as a guide to facilitate charter school locational patterns and thus greater equity in access.