Balancing School Choice and Political Voice: An Analysis of the Legality of Public Charter Schools in New Orleans, Louisiana Under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act

Open Access
Nelson, Steven Leonice
Graduate Program:
Educational Leadership
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 12, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Erica Frankenberg, Dissertation Advisor
  • Preston Green, Dissertation Advisor
  • David Alexander Gamson, Committee Member
  • Michael Barth Berkman, Committee Member
  • Charter Schools
  • School Reform
  • Voting Rights
  • Minority Students
  • School Boards
  • Representation
  • Appointed School Boards
Charter schools are a growing phenomenon in the United States. The once emerging educational reform has grown into the linchpin reform in the United States. As charter schools, continue to grow in popularity as defined by states authorizing their operations, total schools operated and total number of students served, issues of race threaten to plague the advancement of the charter school movement. Charter schools are seen as a civil rights boon to minority parents; however, this research discusses how charter schools may run counter to historical narratives of civil rights. Through a Voting Rights Act analysis under Section 2 of the Act, the researcher determines that charter schools threaten the political participation and voice of racial minorities. This study uses a statistical analysis embedded in a legal analysis of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to advance the argument that appointed charter school boards in New Orleans, Louisiana do not reflect the voting age population of the city. The study first examines case law to discover that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act could be used a viable argument against the establishment, maintenance and/or expansion of charter schools. After finding that case law may support claims against appointed charter school boards under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the study uses a Fisher Exact Test of Independence to prove that appointed charter school boards in New Orleans result in less descriptive representation for Black parents. The resultant p-value (0.0019528) for combined appointed charter school boards is significant at the .01 significance level. As disaggregated by charter school management type, the p-values are significant for both appointed charter school boards that operate one charter school or several charter schools. This study introduces a new discourse into the legality of the implementation of charter schools as well as the political and policy consequences of the implementation of charter schools. The study contributes to a broad array of literature on the subjects of the efficacy of appointed school boards to translate into representation for minorities and the legality of charter schools as related to the rights of minority parents. The results of this study are important as they introduce educational leaders, in their roles as educators, administrators or policymakers, to a counternarrative to theories of charter schools as a civil rights boon for minorities.