"Charter desert" is the term Fordham uses for "areas of relatively high poverty where there are no charter schools." In other words, places that are ripe for charter picking.
|We could put a new charter right next to that cactus|
Are we overlooking neighborhoods in America that are already home to plenty of poor kids, and contain the population density necessary to make school choice work, but lack charter school options? Especially communities in the inner-ring suburbs of flourishing cities, which increasingly are becoming magnets for poor and working-class families priced out of gentrifying areas?
To that end, a research team at Miami University of Ohio has assembled an interactive map, and that map is pretty cool. It shows broad blocks of poverty and gives the location (with info) of every charter and every public elementary school. You can zoom in and out and generally swoop around, and while you may not learn anything new, you get a real sense of charter school distribution. Clustered around certain cities in certain states, right where the poverty is. If you ever needed a visual confirmation that charter schools are largely a method of using the urban poor as a mans of extracting money from the government, here it is.
The report duly notes that some of those blocks of poverty are too sparsely populated to offer real charter marketing opportunities. But the rest as just waiting. The two "key takeaways" mentioned are that charters need to move beyond city boundaries, and that states need to be convinced to open up markets to charters.
The whole framing of the document is what you get when your priority is "expanding charter schools reach" and not "improve education for students in poor regions." The map could just as easily be called a map to places where states should be investing extra resources to help combat the endemic poverty of the region. But the goal here is "to provide more charter options" and not "to make the best use of tax dollars" or "to insure that every US student gets a great education." This is a document aimed at people who are advising investors, not at people who are serious about improving US education.
Instead, we ought to go back to the part about wealthy neighborhoods not being great charter markets (or being labeled charter deserts, either) and consider what it tells us-- that when public schools are properly funded and resourced, few people are interested in having choices. If someone is providing you with all the food and water you need, it's less worrisome to be in the middle of a desert.