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

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Challenging Charter School Segregation Almost 60 Years After Brown

Once considered hothouses of educational innovation, charter schools have become corporate-run testing sweatboxes of segregation and subjugation of minorities in America's urban centers.  In suburban areas of the South and Southwest, charters remain segregated, too, but in the form of milky white dream schools with rich curricula, highly-qualified teachers, and new facilities bristling with technology.  Just like in the heyday of Jim Crow.

The question remains: will white neolibs like Duncan and Gates continue to ignore the chance to incentivize desegregation, and will the half-million dollar a year black executives like charter CEO Geoffrey Canada continue to support segregation, and will the Wall Street hedge funders continue to drive wedges between black parents and the NAACP with their phony astroturf groups?

A piece from the New York Daily News on a recent epiphany for a charter supporter:
About 90% of students attending charter schools in New York City are minorities. This has provoked some to accuse charter schools of creating "racial isolation" and rolling back the integration efforts that started with the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education ruling of 1954.

At the national level, UCLA's Civil Rights Project issued a report lamenting that "charter schools enroll a disproportionate share of black students and expose them to the highest level of segregation."

As a charter school trustee and husband of a charter school operator, my first reaction to hearing this was disbelief: How could anyone complain about giving too many minority kids a good education? But perhaps these critics have a point.

Charter schools justify high minority enrollment as helping close the racial achievement gap. Seats in good schools shouldn't be "wasted" on white students, who usually already have access to the better public schools in any given geographic area. It's a logical argument; however, the counterarguments are stronger.

Minorities who attend diverse schools are more likely to attend college. And as Michal Kurlaender noted in a report to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, "black students who attended racially isolated schools obtained lower paying and more racially isolated jobs than whites."

Integrated schools are also better for white students: Anyone who is uncomfortable with those from a different ethnic background is ill-equipped to function in today's diverse workplaces.

Designing schools for minorities also advances the notion that "they learn better when they're with each other," a belief often ascribed, falsely, to charters. The problem minorities have isn't being unable to learn at the good schools white kids attend; it's that they are often unable to attend these desirable schools in the first place.

It can also be problematic when an all-white charter school board decides to open a charter school to serve minority children: In such a case, charges of paternalism are understandable. As WNYC reported earlier this year, Bronx City Councilwoman Helen Foster confronted white panelists from the Harlem Children's Zone, telling them: "I thought maybe there would be someone talking to me who looked like the kids and the families that we're saving."

Maybe we'd serve minority students better if, instead of creating good schools for minorities to make up for the bad schools minorities have had for so long, we just created good schools for everyone. As the Supreme Court has said, "he way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.". . . .

1 comment:

  1. Of course the corporate plutocrats don't care that they've rewound us all the way back to Jim Crow. All they care about is making a buck, educating on the cheap, and producing compliant inner-city cannon fodder ready-made for military service to the empire.