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More charter schools means fewer early education options, new research shows

December 12, 2017
Marta Jewson
The Hechinger Report

This story was reprinted with permission from The Lens, a nonprofit, in-depth news site serving New Orleans.

The number of pre-kindergarten seats in New Orleans has dropped substantially since Hurricane Katrina, and researchers think it’s connected to the shift to independent charter schools.

During the school year prior to Hurricane Katrina, there were 67 pre-kindergarten seats for every 100 public-school kindergarten students. Ten years later, according to the study, there were 44 seats per 100, a 34 percent drop.

Meanwhile, the number of pre-kindergarten seats for four-year-olds statewide has risen, according to the study by Tulane University’s Education Research Alliance for New Orleans.

“The biggest takeaway for me,” said researcher Lindsay Weixler, “is the mismatch between decentralized school governance and an optional program like pre-k.”

Pre-kindergarten has positive effects on students, studies show. But it costs thousands of dollars per student, and charter schools must weigh that against the chance that those students will move to another charter school before they enter testing grades, according to researchers.