Measuring the motivation to charter: An examination of school sponsors in Texas

Joshua M. Cowen, David J. Fleming, Anat Gofen

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1 Scopus citations


Charter school reforms are predicated on the existence of motivated groups or individuals that create these public schools of choice. Rhetoric concerning charter schools largely takes for granted the supply side and assumes that market forces will compel educational entrepreneurs to open schools. We argue that the motivations of charter school founders are variable and have important implications for the charter school landscape. Examining data on charter school sponsors in Texas, we estimate the impact of sponsor characteristics on the makeup of the student populations these schools serve. We apply a latent class analysis to measure motivation as an underlying variable whose outcomes we observe as qualitatively different sponsors. The analysis distinguishes between three groups of sponsors: those motivated in their capacity as school districts, those seeking to provide a general alternative to traditional district-run public education, and those offering a special service. The results suggest to policymakers that charter schools are diverse entities of education providers that serve different students.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)128-154
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of School Choice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank anonymous referees for helpful comments on a previous version of the paper. We are also grateful to the Charter School Policy Institute (CSPI) in Austin, Texas, for use of the data—especially Dr. Ginny Blankenship, who was Director of Policy and Research at CSPI when we requested the data in early 2007. The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant 144-NL14 to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the U.S. Department of Education. All errors are ours alone.


  • Charter schools
  • School choice


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