Charters

The charter school crowd surrenders to segregation.

by Fred Klonsky

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MacArthur grant winner Hannah Nikole-Jones.

The connection between segregation and quality education was at the heart of Brown v. Board of Education ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court when it banned legalized  segregated public schools  over 60 years ago.

Separate but equal cannot be equal, the court ruled.

Sixty years later segregated schools still predominate in the U.S.

So does the argument that you can have racially segregated but equal schools. What may strike some as odd is that the argument comes from charter school promoters who once claimed that the creation of charter schools were the new civil rights movement

No — what we are saying is that traditional public schools account for 20 times more segregation than charters so if you’re really concerned about it, clean your own house. In the meantime, kids need an education–segregated or not.

— Peter Cunningham (@PCunningham57) December 4, 2017

“Segregated or not.”

That is a surrender to separate but equal.

Of course, Cunningham is right about the public school systems. And fighting to clean up our house – one that reeks of the stench of racism – is exactly what those of us who oppose racial segregation have been up to all these years.

But, unlike the charter promoters, I believe it is all our house.

The charter education reformers are responding to a report from Associated Press.

Charter schools are among the nation’s most segregated, an Associated Press analysis finds — an outcome at odds, critics say, with their goal of offering a better alternative to failing traditional public schools.

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.

In the AP analysis of student achievement in the 42 states that have enacted charter school laws, along with the District of Columbia, the performance of students in charter schools varies widely. But schools that enroll 99 percent minorities — both charters and traditional public schools — on average have fewer students reaching state standards for proficiency in reading and math.

“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.

MacArthur “genius” grant winner Nikole Hannah-Jones, writes for the New York Times. She writes extensively about schools and race. She has argued and presented data that the single most effective way to improve school performance for all are racially integrated schools.

I have worked very hard to dispel the myth that somehow segregation that’s not required by law is less harmful, so we should be OK with it. I actually believe what Richard Rothstein believes, which is that much of the segregation we see today is de jure even though we call it de facto. It is a direct result of official action. And even where it’s not, we know that black people, specifically, and to a lesser degree Latinos, do not have the same choices and options as other families do. [They are not] somehow the only groups of people in this country who choose substandard schools and substandard neighborhoods; they are in those schools and neighborhoods because they do not have a choice.

I also try to push back against this idea that we tried really hard to integrate our schools and it just didn’t work. We didn’t try very hard for very long. And when we did try, it did work.

The most common myth that I confront is that racism, discrimination, and segregation are Southern phenomena, when clearly the most segregated parts of the country are in the Northeast and the Midwest—areas with white folks who believe that they are quite progressive, who say they believe in integration but practice segregation. My work in recent years has been most critical in trying to discomfort white progressives who’d like to believe that I’m writing about someone else. Really, I’m writing about them.

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