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NEPC Talks Education: How Charter Schools Shape Their Enrollment

BOULDER, CO (March 17, 2022) – In this month’s episode of NEPC Talks Education, NEPC Researcher Christopher Saldaña interviews Wagma Mommandi and Kevin Welner about their new book, School’s Choice: How Charter Schools Control Access and Shape Enrollment. Mommandi is a PhD candidate in education policy at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education and a former public school teacher. Welner is a CU Boulder professor and serves as NEPC’s director.

Mommandi and Welner argue that who can access charter schools has implications for a host of charter school issues, such as student achievement, enrollment growth, transparency, segregation, and accountability. They explain that access also lies at the heart of the much-contested debate about the “publicness” of charter schools.

In School’s Choice, they explain how current charter laws have set up a system of incentives and disincentives that encourage charter school operators to pursue students who are high-scoring and cost less to educate. Many charter schools respond to these competitive incentives by controlling access to shape enrollment through a variety of practices that occur before, during, and after charter school enrollment including marketing, burdensome application processes, and exclusionary discipline. Altogether, Mommandi and Welner identify 13 different ways that charters shape their enrollment.

Mommandi and Welner encourage state policymakers to approach charter schools as a tool that can and should be crafted in ways that promote broader policy goals. They explain that current laws treat school choice as an end in itself, without considering how market pressures and incentives shape enrollment. They note that when access for all students is not a requirement of laws regulating school choice, schools start choosing their students instead of the other way around.

A new NEPC Talks Education podcast episode, hosted by Christopher Saldaña, will be released each month from September through May. 

Don’t worry if you miss a month. All episodes are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.

NEPC podcast episodes are also available on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher, under the title NEPC Talks Education. Subscribe and follow!

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: