Education Reforms and Social Capital in School Districts

William A. Fischel

in Making the Grade

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780226251301
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226251318 | DOI:
Education Reforms and Social Capital in School Districts

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This chapter looks at whether school districts are still relevant in American life. The chapter presents some broad empirical evidence in support of the social capital theory of public schools: states with smaller school districts appear to have more social capital; demographic data show that the long-term trends in social capital are closely tracked by the average number of school-age children per family; and contemporary surveys show that parents with more children seem to have more social capital. The chapter also touches on two contemporary trends that could undermine the relevance of school districts. The school-finance litigation movement has had considerable success in reallocating fiscal authority, but it has, contrary to expectations, done little to undermine public attachment to their local school districts. Charter schools have been most popular with voters and parents in the problematic, oversize school districts of large central cities. These schools offer central-city residents the benefits of participation in their schools and their governance. The chapter suggests that a robust system of locally governed school districts may be essential for the future of education.

Keywords: educational reforms; social capital; school districts; America; public schools

Chapter.  20274 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Microeconomics

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