My first year of teaching was 1971 in Sandersville, Georgia, during the second year of school integration in that part of the apartheid South. Those white children whose parents could afford it had been placed in the private academies that had sprung up around the region like mushrooms in a cow pasture after a spring rain. Now almost 40 years later, we can now see the return of segregation and apartheid, this time taking hold at public expense in the charter schools like Pataula Charter Academy that hoped to be the solution to race mixing. From the Journal-Constitution:
9:12 a.m. Monday, February 8, 2010
In fighting approval of a regional charter school, southwest Georgia superintendents allege that the Pataula Charter Academy would signal a return to the era in Georgia when blacks and whites attended different schools.
The debate is reopening old wounds of race and disparate education in districts still under court desegregation orders.
One of seven charter schools — public schools that operate with greater autonomy in exchange for greater accountability — approved by a new state commission, Pataula plans to open in the fall as a regional public k-8 school. It will enroll 440 students from Randolph, Calhoun, Early, Clay and Baker counties. Some districts now want the state Board of Education to stop Pataula.
Along with drawing from the majority black schools in the region, Pataula is attracting students from two private academies, which are virtually all-white. “Initially, you will see more urgency on the side of private-school parents who are tired of paying tuition,” said Ben Dismukes, a Pataula founder and himself the parent of two private-school students.
The interest of private-school parents has sparked worries that Pataula is a seg academy posing as a public charter school. To counter the innuendo that it is a “white school,” Pataula has held lotteries for slots, and encouraged all families to apply.
“For whatever reason — and it probably goes back to long before charter schools and long before even my time growing up in this area — trust has to be re-established between the African-American and white communities when it comes to education,” said Dismukes.
Although the school systems contend that Pataula will increase segregation, many nearby schools are far from integrated. Out of 756 students in k-8, Randolph County has 694 blacks and 62 whites. . . . .