"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Charter Schools: Duncan's Laboratories of Resegregation

Not every charter is all African-American or Hispanic with non-stop test prep, penal pedagogy, and hours that run from 7:30 to 5PM. Some, especially in the South and the West, are all white, offer karate and foreign languages, embrace hands-on learning, and run from 8AM to 2:45, except on Monday when they close at 12:45.

Just like York Preparatory Academy just outside Rock Hill, SC, which serves the white families of the new high end Gates subdivision, where lot prices start near $74,000. With an all-white Board, it's just like schools in the South used to be, back when celebrating Confederate History Month was not such a big deal.

From The Herald:

Local black leaders are concerned that York Preparatory Academy, the first charter school in York County open to any student, will be nearly all white.

The academy's organizers are still compiling information about the student body's demographics. But the several hundred people who attended the school's recent enrollment lottery were mostly white, as was the crowd of several hundred who attended a recent board meeting.

The school's governing board of seven members is all white.

Melvin Poole, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Rock Hill chapter, sees the makings of a segregated school.

"I don't think they made a real effort to get blacks in," Poole said. "I think this is just a cover-up way to get back to segregated schools ... creating a school of elites on the taxpayer's dime."

That's not true, said York Prep founder Craig Craze. He said organizers targeted black neighborhoods and churches with public information sessions about the school. Craze, who declined to speculate about the school's demographics until that data is available, said 1,588 people applied to send students to the school.

"Nowhere did we ask about gender or race before the lottery," he said.

The debate reflects a growing concern nationally over charter schools, which, with President Barack Obama's blessing, are opening in larger numbers every year.

"The charter school movement has been a major political success, but it has been a civil rights failure," reads the foreword to a recent study by researchers from the Civil Rights Project based at UCLA.

Charter schools continue to "stratify students by race, class and possibly language," according to the 130-page report, titled "Choice without Equity: Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards."

The researchers found that across the country, many charter schools have largely black student populations. But the study reported that in the West and some areas of the South, charter schools are mostly white.

"These trends suggest that charter schools are contributing to white flight in the country's two most racially diverse regions," the authors concluded.

While success varies at the thousands of charter schools across the country, proponents tout them as needed competition for traditional public schools. Obama has made them a cornerstone of his push to reform American public education.

At their best, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said, charter schools are "laboratories of innovation that we can all learn from."

The schools are public and paid for with tax money but generally operate outside the authority of local school districts. Charter schools don't have to follow mandates that traditional public schools must follow.

At York Prep, for example, the school day for all grades would run from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., except on Mondays, when classes would let out at 12:45 p.m. Parents would have the option to leave children at school to take part in extracurricular and academic programs, including karate and foreign language lessons. . . .

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