Home > Uncategorized > In Segregated Cities, Charter Schools Even MORE Segregated than Public Schools

In Segregated Cities, Charter Schools Even MORE Segregated than Public Schools

December 4, 2017

As an AP article in Education Week reports, in a nation that seems to care less and less about racial integration, charter schools are contributing to the problem more than they are solving it. According to a recent analysis by AP staffers, charter schools are more likely than regular public schools to have extreme racial segregation.

National enrollment data shows that charters are vastly over-represented among schools where minorities study in the most extreme racial isolation. As of school year 2014-2015, more than 1,000 of the nation’s 6,747 charter schools had minority enrollment of at least 99 percent, and the number has been rising steadily.

The problem: Those levels of segregation correspond with low achievement levels at schools of all kinds.

The problem is that when parents are offered choice within a universe that is already highly segregated, they tend to choose a school that is different from their neighborhood school even if that neighborhood school is marginally integrated. But given the facts outlined above, activist attorneys are suing in some states to remedy this problem, which was presumably addressed in the 1954 Brown v. Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court decision:

“Desegregation works. Nothing else does,” said Daniel Shulman, a Minnesota civil rights attorney. “There is no amount of money you can put into a segregated school that is going to make it equal.”

Shulman singled out charter schools for blame in a lawsuit that accuses the state of Minnesota of allowing racially segregated schools to proliferate, along with achievement gaps for minority students. Minority-owned charters have been allowed wrongly to recruit only minorities, he said, as others wrongly have focused on attracting whites.

But the charter school advocates see things differently:

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools spokeswoman Vanessa Descalzi said today’s charters cannot be compared to schools from the Jim Crow era, when blacks were barred from certain schools.

“Modern schools of choice with high concentrations of students of color is a demonstration of parents choosing the best schools for their children, rooted in the belief that the school will meet their child’s educational needs, and often based on demonstrated student success,” Descalzi said. “This is not segregation.”

In this situation in Milwaukee, it is likely that both sides are correct. In Milwaukee, where “white flight” occurred over the past several decades, only 14 percent of the 78,500 students in the public school system are white. Neighboring suburban districts are nearly opposite and there are some districts within a reasonable driving distance that are almost all white. But parents who reside in Milwaukee cannot choose to attend those schools even if they are less crowded and have better resources. That means that any debates about integration are effectively immaterial, as a former Milwaukee Superintendent notes:

Howard Fuller, who was superintendent of Milwaukee schools from 1991 to 1995, rejects criticism of racially isolated charters. He says the imbalances reflect deep-rooted segregation, and it is unfair to put the burden on charters to pursue integration.

In a city where many black students live in poverty, and some reach high school not knowing how to read, he said there are other, more pressing problems.

“It’s a waste of time to talk about integration,” he said. “How do these kids get the best education possible?”

If academic achievement cannot be improved through integration, then MAYBE some legislators should try to get more resources for the de facto segregated schools in Milwaukee to disprove Danial Shulman’s assertion that “There is no amount of money you can put into a segregated school that is going to make it equal”. MAYBE throwing more money at Milwaukee’s de facto segregated schools could make a difference.

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