Seventy percent of black charter school students have few white classmates, estimates a study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. From the Washington Post:
To the authors of the study, the findings point to a civil rights issue: “As the country continues moving steadily toward greater segregation and inequality of education for students of color in schools with lower achievement and graduation rates,” the study concludes, “the rapid growth of charter schools has been expanding a sector that is even more segregated than the public schools.”
Racially segregated schools tend to be inferior, says UCLA Education Professor Gary Orfield, who oversaw the study. “The study recommended that federal and state governments push for racial diversification of charter schools,” reports the Post.
Should black students be denied a charter alternative unless enough whites want to attend the same inner-city school?
“We actually are very proud of the fact that charter schools enroll more low-income kids and more kids of color than do other public schools,” said Nelson Smith, president and chief executive of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, based in Washington. “The real civil rights issue for many of these kids is being trapped in dysfunctional schools.”
For all the complaints about skimming, charter schools disproportionately enroll the lowest-scoring students, inner-city African-Americans. Their parents have decided that a nearly all-black charter school is a better choice than the neighborhood school, which may be marginally more integrated (probably with Hispanics). Whose civil rights are violated by letting parents make that choice?
“Urban parents don’t care about so-called civil rights activists who work in ivory towers, live in suburbs, release reports on ‘segregation’ just in time for Black History Month (wink, nudge), and avoid the worst American public education offers,” writes Rishawn Biddle of Dropout Nation.
The study also complains that charters in Western states enroll somewhat more whites and fewer Hispanics than state averages. If one group, such as immigrant parents, is less likely to choose charters then other groups will form a larger percentage of enrollment.
The charter high school in my book, Our School, is now 96 percent Mexican-American, up from 83 percent (if memory serves) in the first year. Downtown College Prep has focused on educating the children of poorly educated, Spanish-speaking immigrants and, increasingly, that’s who chooses the school. I don’t see that as a problem.